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Spain tells 'fire tourists' to stay away from forest blaze

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Authorities have urged 'fire tourists' to avoid blazes raging in eastern Spain on Sunday. Officials said that by looking on, they were putting themselves at danger and interfering with efforts to quell them.

Emergency services reported that more than 500 firefighters were fighting the fire with the support of 20 helicopters and planes four days after it broke out close to Villanueva de Viver, Valencia region.

Gabriela Bravo, regional head for interior affairs in Valencia, said that police had seen 14 cyclists close to the scene.

She said: "We ask again and most importantly tourists not to engage in fire tourism, or to approach the perimeter area."

Officials said that Spain's first major wildfire of this year destroyed more than 4,900 hectares (9.900 acres) of forest, and that 1,700 villagers were forced to flee their homes in Valencia and Aragon.

Residents fear that the fire could have a severe impact on the local economy, which relied heavily on tourism.

Jorge Grausell (72) said that "the people here live off cycling, hiking and a few bars".

"You can see it and it is a disaster to anyone who loves nature."

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There are fears that the devastating wildfires of last year could return this year because of an unusually dry winter in southern Europe.

According to statistics from the European Commission (EC), around 785,000 hectares of Europe were destroyed last year. This is more than twice the average annual destruction rate for the past 16 decades.

According to the European Forest Fire Information System (Commission), last year saw record-breaking 493 fires in Spain that destroyed 307,000 ha of land.

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