Monchique’s “monster blaze” enters day six
The largest fire so far registered this year has entered its 6th day devastating Monchique and threatening neighbouring boroughs – but everything is pointing to this afternoon being decisive.
National coordinator Patrícia Gaspar says firefighters are giving this monster their all in the hope of tackling the last active areas before the north wind gets any stronger.
This afternoon may see ‘reignitions’, but hopes are that today will see the blazes finally brought under control.
The inferno began in temperatures nudging 50ºC in the Perna da Negra region of Monchique last Friday. Two fronts took flames into the borough of Odemira (north) and south towards the more populated side of the mountain.
Stultifying heat, strong wind and minimal air humidity ensured that all the conventional methods in the book had little success of bringing the incident to a rapid close.
Within 48-hours 130 military (111 from the army, 19 from the navy) with 28 vehicles (light and medium weight) were drafted in to help firefighters which by then were reaching exhaustion.
Early reports talked of “a number of agricultural structures being destroyed and at least 1,000 hectares of land devastated”.
This has since accelerated to include many people’s homes, livelihoods and dreams, with well over 20,000 hectares now black and steaming.
Talking to journalists over the weekend meteorologist Paula Leitão of the institute of sea and atmosphere said conditions throughout the country do not augur well. She predicted a lot more fires to come and “not much can be done” about them when they start.
The weather phenomenon prevalent last weekend involved ‘vertical cloud formations’ known for carrying electrical storms that send out bolts of ‘dry lightening’ that ignite parched forestland.
Questioned specifically about the Monchique fire, she said it “will be very difficult and there is not a lot that can be done” to halt the blaze due to the extreme weather conditions.
On Sunday, Major Manuel Cordeiro, coordinating operations, classified the situation as “terrible”, stressing that with everything at play (extreme temperatures, almost non-existent air humidity and rising wind force) the scenario was not going to improve anytime soon.
It didn’t. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday saw firefighters beefed, major air support drafted in, a change in command and strategy, but the bogeyman in the equation (as always) has been the proliferation of eucalyptus.
For a full report on this latest devastating fire to damage the area known as “the Algarve’s green lung”, see our paper edition story out tomorrow (Thursday).
Meantime the redoubtable Associação de Alerta do Incéndio Florestal is appealing for supplies for exhausted firefighters to be dropped at Silves fire station for onward transport to Monchique.
Items badly needed include:
Bottles of water no bigger than 500ml
tetra paks (fruit Juice)
toiletries men and women
cotton socks , men and women , these do not have to be new
and also fruit, basically “HAND” food”.
Photo taken by Monchique resident Lisa Selvidge