“Today I thought that I would have to give sad news to the world, but it has not been like that.” The fire has made the night very difficult in Izañaon the peaks of Tenerife. Rafael Rebolo, director of the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands (IAC), he was convinced that the scientific facilities would not resist the unstoppable advance of the fire. However, the incessant work of the means of containment both day and night, have saved in extremis to the telescopes of the Observatory of the Teide of the flames
The fire has not reached, for the moment, the facilities of the Izaña Atmospheric Research Center, of the State Meteorological Agency (Aemet)although its workers are still waiting for the progress of the fire in some specific areas where they have scientific facilities.
The night work carried out by the almost 60 people, between fire teams and squads of the Military Emergency Unit (UME), which were planted on the peaks of Tenerife, and especially in that area, have allowed, for the moment, the fire to stop its advance and for the scientific facilities have been saved from the flames, at least for the moment.
Both the Aemet and the IAC hold their breath hoping that over the next few hours the fire can be completely contained and that, in a few days, they can access them to make a more exhaustive assessment of the damage.
The Teide Observatory staff were evacuated on Thursday. “Since then, we have followed the progress of the fire through the cameras installed in the observatory,” explains Rebolo. In this way, and although the field of vision is not very wide, they could see how “the front was approaching on Saturday.” The catastrophe seemed “inevitable”.
The authorities view the Izaña front with concern and will work today to control it
In the early hours of Sunday, the director of the IAC sent a mass email to all Spanish and foreign institutions that have some relationship with the Observatory, trying to warn of possible scenarios of affection. “I also spoke to the island authorities to warn them of the arrival of the fire,” he explains. “At three in the afternoon on Sunday he came in and we saw him live,” explains Rebolo.
Before the fire came had installed a fire barrier around it and both the IAC and Aemet made two cisterns available to the firefighting teams –one of them with more than 200 cubic meters of water– to help stop the spread of the flames.
But not even the roads that surround the observatory could stop the incessant fire that remained only 40 meters from the French Themis and German Stella telescopes, and 150 of the Canarian Quijote telescopes. “He surrounded us on several fronts,” Rebolo emphasizes.
The same thing happened in the aemet, as explained by Virgilio Carreño, accidental head of basic systems at the Izaña Atmospheric Research Center. “A tongue of fire passed a few meters from one of the hangars and finally went down Fasnia,” explains Carreño, who assures that that front and the one at the foot of the badajoz ravineThey are the most worrying at the moment. “We have several very sensitive scientific facilities at that location,” he explains.
The fire-fighting devices continue to work piecemeal in the area to prevent damage to the infrastructure and to contain the fire and prevent it from going down the slope and affecting other municipalities. This morning, at a press conference, the head of the Forestry Service of the Cabildo de Tenerife, Pedro Martínez, pointed out that this area is “worrying” and insisted that the media act today in that place.
The fire was only 40 meters from the Themis and Stella telescopes
In the zone not only there are several dozen professionals working from the ground but also seaplanes and helicopters, which are collecting water from a large raft temporarily installed in the area.
According to Rafael Rebolo, this is one of the most extreme circumstances that the Teide Observatory has faced. “We’ve had terrible snow storms and even hurricane force winds that have blown the covers off some telescopes, but we’ve never faced anything so devastating on the island,” she stresses. The researchers do not rule out, while waiting for an assessment at the foot of the field, that some minor damage may have occurred in both scientific facilities.