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Forest fire sweeps northwestern Spain

Firefighting crews aided by lighter winds made progress Wednesday in their battle against a wildfire which broke out in northwestern Spain amid unusually warm weather, officials said.

Hundreds of firefighters and soldiers backed by seven helicopters and five water-dropping planes were fighting the blaze which broke out on Monday near the village of San Xoan de Laino in the northwestern region of Galicia, the regional government said in a statement.

Officials evacuated two schools in the area on Tuesday because of the advancing flames but the blaze was no longer threatening built-up areas, it added.

A spark from a high-voltage power line is the “most probable” cause of the wildfire, which was then fuelled by strong winds, the vice president of the regional government of Galicia, Alfonso Rueda, told local television.

Authorities in Galicia estimate the blaze has so far ravaged around 850 acres (2,100 acres) of land, making it the worst wildfires since deadly blazes hit the region in October 2017.

Firefighters said lighter winds had helped them get the upper hand against the blaze although they cautioned temperatures remained high.

Temperatures are forecast to hit 29 degrees (84 Fahrenheit) on Wednesday in some parts of Galicia, which is heavily wooded in native oaks and pines and has large areas of imported eucalyptus plantations.

Another three smaller fires were active in other parts of Galicia which had so far destroyed a total of around 140 hectares, including one which affects a national park.

Last month was the second driest February this century in Spain, according to national weather office Aemet.

Across the border in Portugal firefighters late on Tuesday brought under control a blaze near the central village of Oliveira de Azemeis which threatened several homes. Some 400 firefighters battled the fire at one point.

Portuguese authorities warned that all of mainland Portugal faced a “high” risk of wildfires on Wednesday due to dry winds and drought conditions.