More than 700 firefighters are battling a wildfire in northern Spain that began earlier this week after a pile of chicken dung caught fire because of extreme temperatures during a scorching heat wave in Europe, according to the New York Times.
The fire has consumed around 10,000 acres of forest and vegetation and could destroy up to 50,000 acres by the time it subsides, CNN reports.
Firefighters said the pile of manure was improperly managed, and was therefore susceptible to breaking out into flames under high temperatures. They urged residents to take more precautions to prevent fires during the summer months.
But the spontaneous combustion also reflects the growing risks associated with climate change as the world becomes hotter, drier, and more prone to extreme weather events.
In fact, the heat wave occurring in Europe is reaching temperatures never before seen in parts of the continent. It’s especially surprising because it’s happening before the hottest part of the summer.
In parts of France, temperatures are expected to reach 113 degrees Fahrenheit (about 45 degrees Celsius), the highest level ever recorded in the country. The last time France faced a similar heat wave, 15,000 people died.
In recent years, extreme heat waves have coincided with droughts to create conditions ideal for wildfires.
In the decades ahead, increasingly severe heat waves will likely lead to even more disastrous and unusual fires.
In Spain, authorities are working to contain the blaze, but in the meantime they’re urging citizens to evacuate affected areas and to stay indoors to avoid air pollution.
During wildfires, the air in surrounding areas can become saturated with hazardous particles that can cause and exacerbate health problems. Children and elderly people are especially vulnerable to asthma attacks and other complications.