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  • A group of men prepare fireballs in the city of Nejapa.

    A group of men prepare fireballs in the city of Nejapa. | Photo: EFE

Published 2 September 2017

The streets of Nejapa fill with flying fireballs in a unique historic festival attracting hundreds of tourists.

A town in El Salvador is celebrating its annual fire battle that takes over its streets, as part of a traditional festival held in order to remember the damage caused by a volcano explosion in 1658.

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Since 1922, the citizens of Nejapa have celebrated the festival of fireballs in the main streets of the city, where dozens of people prepare for the battle. 

To start the event, they divide themselves into two camps and light a large bonfire where they place hundreds of balls to undertake this unique war.

"It's a tradition, perhaps a little dangerous because we use fire, but it's something that belongs to all who live in Nejapa ... I like to participate, because of the adrenaline," Benjamin Guzman said to La Prensa.

Rain was no obstacle for the citizens and the tourists to enjoy the show, as they watched with a prudent distance.

Participants are preparing for the festivities by painting their faces and opening their businesses to sell food and drinks.

They wear long-sleeved shirts, hats and leather gloves to be able to handle the fireballs that will be thrown to their opponents.

They "burn" the town in El Salvador. | Photo: Twitter / @juanPabl2016

Nejapa residents during the event. | Photo: Twitter / @ahmad_alif97

The balls, made of cotton rags that are fastened with iron wire, are submerged in gasoline barrels for weeks in advance.

"The more they soak up gasoline the better, they last longer and if they hit you it burns a lot, but this is something that people like, to watch them fly through the air," Saal Romero said to AFP.

"La Recuerda" recreates the eruption of the San Salvador volcano in 1658 and attracts tourists from all over the country.

The large eruption buried parts of Nejapa located 11 miles north of San Salvador, forcing inhabitants to flee to the nearby towns.

The legend says the villagers could only take with them a small wooden image of their patron saint, San Jeronimo.

The events also mark the beginning of the celebrations in honor of their patron.

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