Spanish police arrest five Irish tourists over fire
POLICE in Spain have arrested five Irish holidaymakers, including a couple who were with their two children, suspected of starting a fire in a natural park with home-made sky lanterns during a party.
Firefighters battled for an hour to put out the blaze near the Costa Blanca resort of Denia.
It's believed the fire started after the sky lanterns – small hot air balloons made of paper – set fire to woodland bordering a residential neighbourhood.
Some 1,000 square metres of woodland was destroyed by the fire, which broke out just before midnight on Monday night in the Montgo Mountain Nature Park.
The road between the two resorts had to be closed while the blaze was brought under control and dozens of homeowners were put on alert so they were ready to evacuate their homes if needed.
Police questioned the five Irish nationals overnight, along with two Americans arrested with them. They are expected to appear in court today on suspicion of starting a fire through gross negligence.
None of the seven detainees, who were having a dinner party at a house close to the area where the fire started, have been named.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has said they are providing consular assistance to the Irish family.
It is understood the two children who were with the adults at the time and are being looking after by people close to their Irish parents in Spain.
A spokesman for the National Police in Alicante 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 risk of fire.
"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," he said.
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, causing the lantern to rise into the air before it sinks back to the ground as the flame goes out.