Photo: BRUNO FILIPE PIRES/OPEN MEDIA

A week of infernos

Firefighters battle ‘monster fires’ 

The last seven days in Portugal have seen “57,888 firefighters backed by 19,372 appliances intervene in all theatres of operations” – meaning in all fires, a number of them ‘monsters’ that keep reappearing.

The observation made by Algarve fire-watchers on the “Forest Fire Alert” Facebook page shows how many firefighters and appliances are being used again and again, as the country is pitted by incidents.

As the Resident went to press on Wednesday, the fire that last week bowled into Quinta do Lago threatening lives and property had finally been declared ‘over’. It took days of extreme vigilance and dampening down as elsewhere in the country blazes declared ‘under control’ suddenly roared back to life at the slightest uptick in the wind.

The last seven days have been days of horror and inferno in far too many locations in the north and centre of the country: Guarda, Murça, Vila Pouca de Aguiar, Chaves being some of the places most recently on television screens and people’s radars.

The last five days have also seen the first victims of 2022’s critical wildfire season: a firefighting pilot last Friday; an elderly couple fleeing for their lives in Murça on Monday.

Wednesday seemed to see a lull in the awfulness: temperatures were slightly down on recent days, ‘monster fires’ were slowly abating (in Murça and Chaves) – but no-one can know what is coming round the corner. This critical fire season lasts until September 30 at best. In 2017, the second ‘killer wildfires’ of the year began on October 15…

Arson this year has been, to a large extent, played down –  but it has been ‘worse’ in terms of the number of arsonists caught than any other year so far. On this basis, one can only assume it is the way reports have come through that deflects from the grim reality that Portugal has too many people living in it who enjoy creating this level of destruction.

In terms of forested areas burnt, the country is approaching 50,000 hectares – a number up there with the ‘worst years in living memory’.

On a European level, Portugal is joined by countries like Spain, Greece, France… even Romania is suffering from a drought that is decimating crops (critical for supply through Europe).

For now, Portugal remains in a ‘situation of alert’ – meaning access to forested areas is prohibited if not extremely limited to those with valid reasons to be there;  agricultural work has been reduced in terms of times available; the whole country is on warning to reduce any activities that could cause even a spark to zero.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com