Around 8,000 people have been told to leave their homes as an out of control wildfire continues to spread across Tenerife.
Rev Rachel Ganney a vicar at All Saints Church Tenerife North, is also being put up by friends along with her husband. He was given ten minutes to get out of their house when the fires came closer. They don’t know whether their house has survived. Rev Rachel was on a flight back to Tenerife from the UK when her husband was told to leave.
She told Premier Christian News:
“About a month ago we had fires that were fairly close to us, but they were controlled quite quickly. But this time it’s huge, really, really big. It’s very close to our house and from looking at the photos this morning, it may be even over our house, we don't really know.
“We do have fires every year, actually forest fires on Tenerife aren't unusual, though the size of this one is. We could see the fire from our house, we could see the smoke so my husband already had a bag packed just in case. He also locked up the cats so we could get hold of them if we needed to. But when he was told he had ten minutes there was still a moment of panic. He managed to grab two of his guitars but forgot my laptop - so that obviously shows his priorities!
“The cats are now with a friend and we also have a dog who is with a friend from the church. So I'm very grateful for good friends.
“It’s extremely stressful. I like to know what I’m dealing with and the not knowing is stressful. But I have huge amounts of gratitude. People have been so supportive and so lovely offering help when they can and even when they can't, offering prayers and offering support in other ways. I really do appreciate that.”
The fire has already burned almost 6000 acres of land, but officials insist it's nowhere near any of the main tourist areas, which are said to be operating normally.
All Saints Church is in the north of the island and Rev Rachel says they are preparing to receive people who have been made homeless by the fire:
“The church itself isn't in any danger, but people live up in the forest, so it's people's homes in danger more than the church itself.
“It’s a difficult time, but in some ways it brings out the very best in people, because that's when you realise the church is a family and they do pull together, they do look after each other, they do check on each other and are incredibly supportive. I'm really grateful for them and I’m sure lots of other people are too.”
Over the last two weeks, wildfires have also engulfed the island of Maui in Hawaii causing the deaths of at least 111 people. The official in charge of the island’s emergency response has resigned after criticism for not sounding emergency sirens when the flames engulfed the area of Lahaina.
Rev Rachel says while she would like more information about the situation in Tenerife, there are other priorities:
“Their priority is fighting the fire – if they have to choose between fighting the fire and keeping us informed, I'd rather they fought the fire. It would be nice to know more, but we can live with the uncertainty if we have to.
“Please pray for the firefighters, they’re wearing full protective gear and stood right next to a raging inferno. The bravery and the stamina and the skill of those firefighters is tremendous. So please pray that they don't lose their lives, because it's incredibly dangerous for them.”
Thousands of people have also been evacuated in Canada as wildfires continue to spread towards the northern city of Yellowknife. A state of emergency has also been declared in British Columbia.