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Self-igniting manure most likely the cause of Spain’s wildfire

Click to play video: 'Heat wave keeps Europe sweating as it breaks records with no signs of stopping' Heat wave keeps Europe sweating as it breaks records with no signs of stopping
ABOVE: Heat wave keeps Europe sweating as it breaks records with no signs of stopping, Spain wildfires continue to rage – Jun 30, 2019

Improperly stored chicken manure that self-ignited because of a European heat wave is likely the cause of a wildfire currently burning in Catalonia, according to Spanish authorities.

The fire, which has blazed through about 15,000 acres so far, comes in the midst of a brutal heat wave that’s swept over Europe, particularly France and Spain.

READ MORE: Germany imposes speed limits on autobahn in midst of European heat wave

While extremely uncommon, these spontaneous ignitions can happen when flammable materials such as compost, hay or manure heat up to a high enough temperature, according to agrologist Dan Carlow from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

WATCH: Firefighters battle Catalonia wildfire in the middle of heat wave

Click to play video: 'Firefighters battle Catalonia wildfire in the middle of heat wave' Firefighters battle Catalonia wildfire in the middle of heat wave
Firefighters battle Catalonia wildfire in the middle of heat wave – Jun 28, 2019

“I would assume these are dry manure piles so they would consist of straw or shading, some sort of netting material and then they would have wet spots in them that would get to elevated temperatures, typically, in those conditions,” Carlow said. “The temperature of that hotspot, the netting material, would have to get to close to 70 C.”

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The sweltering heat that’s enveloped Europe has seen Spain’s temperatures peak at above 43 C for the second day in a row. Over the last 40 years, Spain’s meteorological office measured nine heat waves in just June alone, five of those in the last decade.

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Carlow explained that while the external temperatures heating the manure are a factor, the primary reason for the combustion comes from the wet spots in the manure pile.

“Typically, what happens is that excess moisture is the most common cause of hay fires and then the wet conditions the hay’s ability to dry down,” he said. “Typically, air gets to the hay, and it dries down and then cools down. But if it’s wet conditions, the wet [manure] actually impedes the air’s ability to go in and cool that material down so it heats up.”
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READ MORE: Here’s how Europe is trying to endure a blistering heat wave

Spanish military units and local firefighters are combating the blaze, which has forced the evacuation of at least 53 residents so far. The effects of the heat wave have also been linked to two confirmed deaths in Spain.

Although the heat wave, which was caused by the rise of warm air across Europe from Africa, isn’t blamed directly on the effects of climate change, the conditions that are being experienced now are directly in line with the predictions weather authorities have made.

WATCH: Europe caught in ‘unprecedented’ heat wave

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Europe caught in ‘unprecedented’ heat wave – Jun 28, 2019

The World Meteorological Organization has said the European heat wave was “absolutely consistent” with the temperature extremes influenced by greenhouse gas emissions and that the world is on its way to experiencing one of its hottest years in 2019. If that is the case, the 2015-19 span will also be the hottest five-year period ever recorded.

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In France, temperatures also reached up to 45.9 C, the highest ever recorded in the country.

READ MORE: France hits record high temperature while deaths tally up during Europe heat wave

With files from Reuters

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