Photo: Bruno Filipe Pires/Open Media

Algarve fire dominated but authorities fear reignitions

Firefighters remain on alert

The good news coming out of the Algarve this morning is that the fire which broke out in Gambelas and spread to Quinta do Lago and Quarteira has been dominated.

However, authorities remain on alert as they fear that today’s scorching heat and strong winds could lead to reignitions. Indeed, Prime Minister António Costa has already warned that “today is the worst day in terms of fire risk” this week.

Nearly 400 firefighters remain at the affected areas in the Algarve to guarantee that any flare-ups are quickly dealt with.

Speaking to reporters during a press conference this morning, regional civil protection commander Richard Marques said the fire stopped spreading at around 8pm, having affected a 27-kilometre perimeter.

Marques stressed that firefighters were able to stop the fire from spreading to Trafal, which has a “dense concentration of pine trees” and could have made the situation incalculably worse. But bringing the fire under control was not easy.

The dry terrain, scorching heat, and unpredictable wind – which blew steadily at 20km per hour but would also “surprise firefighters with strong gusts” – provided the ‘perfect storm’ which allowed the blaze to keep spreading, said Marques.

The regional commander also said that 12 people who had to be evacuated from their homes – mostly mobile homes which have been cut off from the electrical grid due to the flames – are being accompanied by authorities.

The fire started at around 11.30pm on Tuesday night near the Gambelas campus of the University of the Algarve and just two kilometres away from the Faro bikers’ rally. However, the flames started spreading to the neighbouring borough of Loulé the following morning.

Several houses in the luxury resort of Quinta do Lago were threatened as gardens and trees were destroyed by flames, although no serious damage to the actual houses has been publicly reported so far. Around 150 people were voluntarily evacuated due to the risk of the flames reaching their homes. The fire also reached one of the resort’s golf courses, reportedly causing considerable damage.

An equestrian centre also had to be evacuated. All animals were removed from the site safely.

A harrowing first-hand account of how the fire arrived almost without warning in Quinta do Lago has been shared by Open Media reporter Bruno Filipe Pires.

By Michael Bruxo