Five Irish arrested in Spain after a fire in national park
POLICE in Spain have arrested five Irish people suspected of starting a fire in a natural park with home-made sky lanterns during a party.
Firefighters took an hour to put out the blaze near the Costa Blanca resort of Denia after the lanterns - small hot air balloons made of paper - appeared to set alight woodland bordering a residential neighbourhood.
Dozens of homeowners were put on alert so they were ready to evacuate their homes if needed.
Around 1,000 square metres of woodland was destroyed by the fire, which broke out just before midnight last night/on Monday night in the Montgo Mountain Nature Park, between Denia and Javea.
The road between the two resorts had to be closed while the blaze was brought under control.
Police quizzed the five Irish nationals overnight along with two Americans arrested with them.
They are expected to appear in court tomorrow on suspicion of starting a fire through gross negligence.
None of the seven detainees, who were having a dinner party at a house near to the area where the fire started, have been named. They are thought to have been on holiday.
A spokesman for the National Police in Alicante, which made the arrests, said, they were called to the scene after neighbours phoned them to report they had seen several sky lanterns falling on scrub and pine forest and expressed their concern about the fire risk.
He added: "Officers found several people having dinner in a house close to the scene of the blaze who admitted to sending a number of sky lanterns up into the air.
"An unused one was confiscated together with a bottle of inflammable liquid.
"Luckily the firefighters were able to bring the blaze under control in just over an hour.
"But if the wind had been stronger we could have been facing a disaster.
"Neighbours were put on alert so they could be evacuated quickly if necessary but in the end they were able to stay in their homes."
In Asia sky lanterns, traditionally made from oiled rice paper on a bamboo frame, have been made for centuries.
When lit the flame heats the air inside the lantern, lowering its density and causing the lantern to rise into the air before it sinks back to the ground as the flame goes out.
In ancient China they were strategically used in wars but later became popular with children at festivals.
In recent years there has been growing concern about their potential to cause crop or building fires and harm animals that may eat their remains.