Villages evacuated as massive fire rages in Sintra
Up to 600 firefighters were in action overnight as a massive fire took hold across the south side of the borough of Sintra.
Starting near the Convento da Peninha at around 10.50pm, the blaze forced the evacuation of various villages.
Strong winds, with gusts of up to 100 km/h, were complicating firefighting efforts.
Early reports said President Marcelo – who lives nearby in Cascais – has been on the scene, and is now ‘accompanying’ developments.
This far, residents from five villages have been evacuated: Figueira do Guincho, Biscaia, Aldeia do Juzo, Almoinhas Velhas, and Charneca.
There are also reports that the campsite in Areia (Cascais) has been cleared of campers.
Sintra is one of the principle touristic regions of the country and a UNESCO heritage site.
Since devastating fires 18 years ago, the hillside has been ‘covered’ by a battalion of fire hydrant points – thus in theory the wooden hillside should be easier to protect than in more habitual wildfire situations.
But by 3am, the blaze was classified as ‘far from under control’, mainly due to the wind (which has since abated: see updates below).
Reports were coming through of ‘various houses affected’ in Malveira da Serra, which is the low-lying village to which many people have already been evacuated and within the borough of Cascais.
8am: At least eight planes – including two Canadair and two Firebosses – plus a heavy-duty Kamov helicopter and other lighter aircraft have started fighting the two fronts of this major fire which is still raging – particularly in the area bearing down on Charneca, in the hills towards Cascais.
Firefighter numbers have been boosted to 800, backed by more than 220 vehicles.
A number of firefighters and some civilians, including one child, are reported to have been injured, though not seriously.
TV journalists are already alluding to ‘arson’ as the source of this blaze, but this has not yet been confirmed by the authorities. PJ police are investigating.
A press briefing shortly after 9am described how over 300 people have been evacuated in total, as well as a number of horses and animals from two riding stables.
Hopes are that a “meteorological window” (meaning a calming of the wind and lowering of overall temperatures) will help efforts through the day to bring the fronts under control.
Fears however remain that the blaze could ‘turn’ and threaten the Sintra forests once again.
As to the injured, more details have emerged. In total 18 people have been assisted: one civilian with 10% burns to his arms and legs, eight firefighters who have been treated in hospital plus a number of others who were treated ‘on site’ and are now back battling flames in the field.
1pm: Everything points to the fire, on both fronts, being ‘dominated’.
Firefighters and their vehicles are remaining on the ground for the next 20 hours, which will be ‘crucial’ in terms of controlling any reignitions.
Residents are returning to their homes, none of which have been destroyed.
For now, injuries have extended to 21 victims – but none classified as seriously hurt.
Público describes 600 hectares devastated, with numerous ‘centenarian cedars’ among the blackened areas. But it could have been so much worse.
The next few hours will be fundamental, with planes and helicopters likely to continue dropping water until sundown.