Dear Editor,

Once again, a major rural fire has occurred in the Algarve. Our sympathy goes to all those affected by the fires, those who were displaced and those who lost their property as a result.

And, once again, we owe a considerable debt of gratitude to all those who were involved in combatting the fire: the Bombeiros, the GNR (including GIPS), the pilots who flew in high-risk conditions, the Army and other emergency units such as INEM plus the civil protection operational commanders. Our thanks go to you all.

From my discussions with the operational command, this was a most complex fire. Those involved were faced with temperatures approaching 50°C on the ground, inaccessible areas, humidity under 10%, and high and changing wind conditions at times. A firefighter’s nightmare. At times, the fire travelled at 2kph – that’s around 5 metres every 10 seconds.

The strategy from the outset was the protection of life, and this was achieved by the early evacuation of people who were considered at risk. This strategy, in my view, was correct and the overall casualty toll of 41 including 27 firefighters requiring treatment, mostly from smoke inhalation, plus one more serious in conditions such as the above, threatening at times two major towns and lasting a week, is virtually unprecedented.

I would like to thank all those who shared the government advice to the population concerning the extreme weather conditions and associated fire risk, and our related prevention and safety advice to tourists that we published on Facebook and on our website in English two days before the fire, as well as our ongoing situation reports during the fire. It was clear from the contents that the weather conditions meant a fire was likely.

It is vitally important that everyone follows the advice in these bulletins as well as the self-protection measures in the event of a fire, which is contained in the Safe Village Safe People programme leaflet on our website. The summer is not over, and we must not be complacent.

We are working closely with the government on further measures concerning communications and self-protection to the foreign community and tourists, which are expected to be announced very shortly. Please monitor our website www.safecommunitiesportugal.com, the special link on the homepage “Current ANPC Weather Warnings to the Population” and Facebook page for the latest warnings and safety advice.

David Thomas
President, Safe Communities Portugal


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