A former Westside School teacher yesterday described the wildfire that broke out in the Manilva area in the early hours of Monday morning as “the most dramatic fire” he had ever seen.
Many Gibraltarians, including Charles Durante and his wife Barbara, were among the 400 people evacuated from their homes in the area as the flames spread in Los Altos de Princesa Kristina.
More than 40 firefighters tackled the blaze near Manilva, in the area of Los Hidalgos, Hacienda Guadalupe and El Goleto residential developments and campsites in the Duquesa area.
Speaking to the Gibraltar Chronicle, Mr Durante, 72, said: “We were fast asleep when we heard someone shouting ‘Fire! Fire!’ outside our home.”
“It must have been around 2.30 in the morning when this happened, and I went to the end of my garden wall to see the whole valley was on fire.”
“It was quite extensive and quite dramatic, with flames climbing quite high and threatening burn the end of our garden.”
Mr Durante and another man started watering the end of his garden to dampen the grass before being ordered to leave the home by police officers who were evacuating the area.
“Once we saw the flames were moving down towards the beach we returned to our home on foot to find a bush in our neighbour’s garden on fire and we tried to tackle that to stop the flames from spreading,” Mr Durante said.
“There was an overpowering smell of smoke and although it was kept under control, the fire was quite dramatic and quite impressive.”
“I’ve had this home for over 30 years and have seen some pretty bad fires in the area, but this was one of the worst, and definitely the most dramatic fire, I’ve ever seen.”
Mr Durante said the surprising thing was that the blaze broke out at night, adding that neighbours believed it could have been caused by fireworks from the Manilva fair.
The couple returned to their home nearly three hours later to find that the electricity and water supply were cut off so they decided to head back to Gibraltar.
As they were driving towards Gibraltar, they learnt that the A7 highway was closed to traffic driving past Manilva in both directions because of the smoke, but they managed to head back to the Rock.
In a separate incident on Saturday, the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo shared a message on social media offering assistance from the Gibraltar Fire and Rescue Service after two wildfires broke out in the Tarifa region.