updated 7/17/2005 8:21:43 PM ET 2005-07-18T00:21:43

Eleven firefighters trying to extinguish a forest fire sparked by a smoldering barbecue were killed Sunday in central Spain, officials said.

The charred remains of the firefighters were found together in a gully, said Rosario Arevalo, environmental chief for the central Castilla-La Mancha region where the fire occurred. Arevalo offered no further details on the deaths.

The forest fire destroyed about 12,000 acres of pine forest and forced the evacuation of hundreds of people from their villages in drought-stricken Spain, officials said.

Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega was greeted by protesters who denounced the lack of resources to combat the fire when she arrived at the town of Alcolea del Pinar.

The fire, aided by blustery winds and summer temperatures of up 104 degrees, began Saturday afternoon in the Cueva de los Casares natural park and was still raging out of control late Sunday.

No arrests have been made.

Thousands of acres of forest and scrubland are destroyed each year in summer fires in Portugal and Spain, which this year is suffering from its worst drought since recordkeeping began in the late 1940s.

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