A massive fire is raging at a sprawling tyre dump in a town near Madrid, sending huge plumes of thick black smoke into the air visible for at least 30 kilometres (20 miles). Ten teams of firefighters were sent to try to put out the blaze in Seseña, but it was still raging more than 10 hours after it started.

Sesena tyre fire madrid Spain
Emergency workers stand next to a fire at a tyre dump near a residential development in SesenaSergio Perez/Reuters
Sesena tyre fire madrid Spain
Tyres burn at a dump in Sesena, SpainSergio Perez/Reuters
Sesena tyre fire madrid Spain
A fire burns in a waste dump in Sesena. south of MadridPedro Armestre/AFP
Sesena tyre fire madrid Spain
Tyres burn in a waste dump near the town of SesenaPedro Armestre/AFP
Sesena tyre fire madrid Spain
A fire rages at a tyre dump near a residential development in Sesena, south of MadridSergio Perez/Reuters
Sesena tyre fire madrid Spain
A firefighting helicopter prepares to drop water over a fire at a tyre dump near a residential development in SesenaSergio Perez/Reuters
Sesena tyre fire madrid Spain
A helicopter drops water over tyres burning in a dump near the town of SesenaPedro Armestre/AFP

Spain's leading El Pais newspaper reported that the dump holds 100,000 metric tons (110,230 tons) of used vehicle tyres. Authorities suspect someone intentionally started the fire before dawn at the tyre dump, thought to be Europe's largest, Seseña mayor Carlos Velazquez said in an interview on Cadena Ser radio. Local residents were ordered to stay indoors and shut their windows, he said.

Sesena tyre fire madrid Spain
A picture taken from the Almudena cathedral in Madrid shows a huge smoke column caused by a fire in an uncontrolled dump near SesenaGerard Julien/AFP
Sesena tyre fire madrid Spain
Dark clouds of smoke billow behind an almost empty residential complexPedro Armestre/AFP
Sesena tyre fire madrid Spain
Huge clouds of dark smoke hang over the 'ghost town' of SesenaPedro Armestre/AFP
Sesena tyre fire madrid Spain
An Osborne Bull is silhouetted against clouds of dark smokePedro Armestre/AFP

Although there are many apartment complexes in the town, few residents live in them. Seseña is Spain's most famous ghost town, a symbol of the country's economic fall after the housing bubble burst in 2008.

Developers began building the vast prison-like blocks in the late 1990s, hoping tens of thousands of people would buy apartments on Madrid's southern fringe. The massive project soon became mired in scandal. Developers had not included utilities, such as gas and water in the plans, rendering the apartments uninhabitable. To nobody's surprise, it turned out the authorities had been bribed to approve the development. Of the planned 13,500 units, fewer than 3,000 were sold, and less than a third of these were ever occupied.

millions of tyres dumped near Sesena, a ghost town in Spain
Millions of used tyres are seen on a dump in front of largely empty apartment buildings in SeseñaPablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images
millions of tyres dumped near Sesena, a ghost town in Spain
A worker walks past the used tyre dumpPablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images
millions of tyres dumped near Sesena, a ghost town in Spain
Mountains of used tyres are dumped in Seseña near MadridPablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images
Spain ghost town Sesena
Weeds grow around empty apartments and shop unitsJasper Juinen/Getty Images
Spain ghost town Sesena
A seldom-used road runs through the ghost town of SeseñaOli Scarff/Getty Images
Spain ghost town Sesena
An unused swimming pool is surrounded by a large-scale residential development that is almost entirely unoccupiedOli Scarff/Getty Images
Spain ghost town Sesena
A lone light burns in an apartment, surrounded by others with their exterior shutters closedJasper Juinen/Getty Images
Spain ghost town Sesena
A row of abandoned partially-completed housesOli Scarff/Getty Images
Spain ghost town Sesena
Dismantled cranes lie dormant in front of a predominantly unoccupied residential developmentOli Scarff/Getty Images
Spain ghost town Sesena
Unoccupied commercial units seen at the bottom of one of the largely empty apartment blocks in SeseñaJasper Juinen/Getty Images

The massive pile of tyres started to form in the nineties when a company began using the site as a temporary dump for old tyres earmarked for recycling. The dump was declared illegal in 2003 and the firm abandoned the site. The regional government started processing the tyres, grinding them up to use as building materials, surfacing for roads, sports tracks and children's playgrounds. It has been estimated that it will take about four years to completely use up the mountain of tyres.