ARSON is suspected after four separate fires destroyed up to 8,000 trees in Elche’s World Heritage listed palm groves in Alicante.

Elche Local Police, along with the Fire department and National Police have announced that an investigation has been opened, with first indications suggesting they were intentional fires. Unesco declared the palm grove of Elche a World Heritage site.

The first fire was spotted at around 0.50 am on Saturday in a palm orchard in La Hoya. Later, at around 2.25 am, a second fire broke out in a grove in Algoros. At the same time another orchard began to burn, this time on the CV-856 at kilometre 1. Finally, at 6am, a fourth fire broke out on CV-851 at kilometre 2.

The four fires, all in the municipality of Elche resulted in thousands of burnt palm trees – estimated to be up to 8,000 – according to fire brigade sources.

Twenty-five firefighters from Elche, Crevillent, San Vicente and Almorabi stations fought the blazes alongside six from the forest firefighting unit. The fires were put out later the same day.

The ElchePalmeral is the name given to a number of date palm groves in and around the city totalling about 200,000 trees.

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