Out-of-control wildfire near Costa del Sol's Estepona resort kills a firefighter, forces evacuation

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A devastating wildfire affecting mountains behind the popular Costa del Sol resort of Estepona has killed a firefighter and forced 1,000 people to evacuate their homes. 

Officials confirmed a 44-year-old firefighter was killed on Thursday afternoon as he tried to tackle the ‘out-of-control’ blaze with colleagues.

Many of the local residents and holidaymakers told to leave their homes spent the night in hotels or in their cars although a small number were put up in a sports pavilion in Estepona which has been prepared to house around 100 people.

A residential estate in Benahavis near Marbella has been evacuated along with two others near Estepona including Forest Hills. Several Brits are among those known to have been told to clear the area.

Local reports say a house and part of another building have been destroyed by flames.

Strong westerly winds are continuing to hamper the effort to bring the fire under control, which is affecting four municipalities near the Costa del Sol beaches popular with British holidaymakers. 

A devastating wildfire affecting mountains behind the popular Costa del Sol resort of Estepona has killed a firefighter and forced 1,000 people to evacuate their homes

A devastating wildfire affecting mountains behind the popular Costa del Sol resort of Estepona has killed a firefighter and forced 1,000 people to evacuate their homes

Many of the local residents and holidaymakers told to leave their homes spent the night in hotels or in their cars after raging wildfires broke out near the Costa del Sol resort Estepona

Many of the local residents and holidaymakers told to leave their homes spent the night in hotels or in their cars after raging wildfires broke out near the Costa del Sol resort Estepona

Officials confirmed a 44-year-old firefighter (not pictured) was killed on Thursday afternoon as he tried to tackle the 'out-of-control' blaze with colleagues

Officials confirmed a 44-year-old firefighter (not pictured) was killed on Thursday afternoon as he tried to tackle the ‘out-of-control’ blaze with colleagues

The alarm was raised around 9:30 on Wednesday and six hours later level one of a regional emergency forest fire plan was activated in response to the threat to human life and property posed by the blaze.

Major roads including part of the AP-7 motorway running along the Costa del Sol were closed as the operation to contain the wildfire swung into action.

Nearly 9,000 acres of land have already been consumed by fire, making the blaze the most devastating of the last decade in Malaga province.

Confirming the death of the firefighter, identified only by his first name and initials as Carlos M.H., Andalucia’s Regional Minister of Agriculture Carmen Crespo said: ‘This man has died in an act of service for Andalucians.

‘We owe him everything.’

Pictures showed a plume of black smoke drifting from the mountains down into the Mediterranean

Pictures showed a plume of black smoke drifting from the mountains down into the Mediterranean

Smoke and orange light filled the sky over the Costa del Sol resort town of Estepona as wildfires forced an evacuation of the town on Thursday

Smoke and orange light filled the sky over the Costa del Sol resort town of Estepona as wildfires forced an evacuation of the town on Thursday

Firefighters take a break after a colleague died while tackling the 'out-of-control' blaze near Costa del Sol resort Estepona

Firefighters take a break after a colleague died while tackling the ‘out-of-control’ blaze near Costa del Sol resort Estepona

Footage posted online showed the extent of the wildfires

Video showed the fires raging into the night near the Costa del Sol resort town of Estepona

Footage posted online showed the extent of the wildfires, seen raging into the night near the Costa del Sol resort town of Estepona

Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez added in a tweet, describing the dedication of the firefighters involved in the operation to control the blaze as ‘admirable’.

‘A hug from my entire government to the family and colleagues of the fireman who has died today while he battled the Sierra Bermeja blaze.’

More than 400 professionals were being deployed late Thursday in Sierra Bermeja to fight the fire.

Seven planes and helicopters were due to join them at first light this morning to assist them from the air.

Satellite pictures showed a plume of black smoke drifting from the mountains down into the Mediterranean.

Major roads including part of the AP-7 motorway running along the Costa del Sol were closed as the operation to contain the wildfire swung into action on Wednesday

Major roads including part of the AP-7 motorway running along the Costa del Sol were closed as the operation to contain the wildfire swung into action on Wednesday

At least 1,000 people were forced to evacuate after a wildfire near Costa del Sol resort town Estepona was deemed 'out-of-control'

At least 1,000 people were forced to evacuate after a wildfire near Costa del Sol resort town Estepona was deemed ‘out-of-control’

Many of the local residents and holidaymakers told to leave their homes spent the night in hotels or in their cars

Many of the local residents and holidaymakers told to leave their homes spent the night in hotels or in their cars 

A woman carries her cat as officials evacuate people near the Costa del Sol resort of Estepona

A woman carries her cat as officials evacuate people near the Costa del Sol resort of Estepona

Around 100 residents were put up in a nearby sports hall after they were evacuated from their homes as wildfires threatened the settlements

Around 100 residents were put up in a nearby sports hall after they were evacuated from their homes as wildfires threatened the settlements

Tourists have been warned to stay out of the way of helicopters which may be flying low to gather water from the sea and reservoirs to tackle the fires.

At one critical point soon after the alarm was raised, the flames came within 150ft of a petrol station on the AP-7 motorway near Estepona.

The cause of the fire has yet to be confirmed, although well-placed sources are already pointing to possible arson.

Mrs Crespo, confirming it appeared to have started in two different places in the municipality of Genalguacil, said: ‘What’s very clear is that the circumstances behind it are very striking.’

A central government spokesman for Malaga, Javier Salas, added: ‘The fact the fire started in two different places makes you think it could be deliberate.’

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