SANTA CRUZ DE LA PALMA, SPAIN: A park ranger died while fighting a blaze in the Canary Islands allegedly sparked by a German man who set fire to toilet paper after defecating in the woods, authorities said Thursday.
Some 700 people have been evacuated from areas near the blaze, which is sweeping through a wooded, mountainous area in La Palma, one of the lesser-known, unspoiled islands of the Spanish archipelago off the coast of Africa.
Francisco Jose Santana died while working to put out the flames, said Spain’s UGT union, of which the 54-year-old was a member.
“He leaves a wife and five children,” it added.
A spokesperson for the Guardia Civil police force told AFP a 27-year-old German man was arrested Wednesday afternoon, suspected of having caused the fire.
The man, whose identity has not been revealed, “told officers he accidentally provoked the blaze when he defecated… and set fire to the toilet paper he used for that,” the Guardia Civil added in a statement.
The man has been accused of causing a forest fire through negligence, and is expected to be questioned by a judge later Thursday, it said.
Some 200 people are fighting the blaze, as are six helicopters and one plane, a spokesperson for the Canary Islands’ emergency services said.
Weather conditions are not expected to make their task any easier, as high temperatures and strong winds fan the flames, she added.
The Spanish government has announced it will send more planes and helicopters to fight the blaze.
Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy sent his condolences to the bereaved family of the park ranger.