A wildfire in the western Spanish region of Extremadura has burned up to 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) and forced 550 people from their homes. The windy weather has complicated efforts to bring the fire under control, according to emergency services. The Military Emergency Unit commander, David Barona, stated that the strong gusts of wind are generating a speed and progress that make it difficult to extinguish the fire. The smoke plume is also spreading at a low altitude, making it difficult for air assets to access the area. Up to 250 firefighters are currently fighting the blaze in an area called Pinofranqueado, in Caceres province, near the border with Portugal. The villages of Cadalso, Descargamaría and Robledillo de Gata have been evacuated by authorities. The head of Extremadura emergency services, Nieves Villar, told reporters that natural causes sparked the fire and that it is a very large attack on vegetation and the area. An unusually dry winter across parts of southern Europe coming after three years of below-average rainfall in Spain has raised the risk of wildfires. About 493 fires destroyed a record 307,000 hectares (about 760,000 acres) in Spain last year, according to the European Forest Fire Information System.