Day-trippers caused the deadliest forest fire in years in Spain

One of the biggest fires in Spain this summer and the deadliest in years was caused by a common carelessness. A group of day-trippers confessed they have started the fire that killed 11 firefighters, forced hundreds of people to be evacuated from their villages and destroyed thousands hectares of woodland.

The fire began Saturday afternoon in the Cueva de los Casares natural park in the Guadalajara province east of Madrid.

The group of 10 day-trippers told the Civil Guard that their barbecue in a nature reserve of pine woodland ignited the fire, said Carmen Vallejo, spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry of the Castilla y La Mancha region, according to the AP.

"The fire is practically under control but not totally extinguished," said Vallejo. She added that only 40 of the 400 people evacuated had not yet returned home.

As Basque news and Information Channel reports, the alleged perpetrator of the fire in the natural park was arrested.

Members of the public have criticised the authorities' handling of the fire, adds BBC.

One woman told Spanish radio by phone that the emergency services had been slow to react.

"It could have been stopped yesterday, and today it's too late."

Another woman accused the authorities of failing to take the threat seriously enough.

"They told us we weren't in a danger area and that we should get into bed and close the windows - when there was such thick smoke you couldn't even breathe."

Environment Minister Cristina Narbona told state radio Monday some 8,000 hectares had been burned. A brigade of paratroopers and nine firefighting planes had been sent to tackle the blaze, including some from neighboring France.

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