Aljezur fire now in ‘conclusion’ phase as communities rally

The so-called Aljezur fire, which actually blazed through 2,200 hectares on Friday and Saturday straddling three separate municipalities (click here), is finally in its ‘conclusion phase’.

Hundreds of firefighters are still ‘on the ground’, checking hotspots and watching for any reignitions. But authorities are warning that the next few days will be crucial due to rising temperatures.

A bulletin put out by Portimão’s Civil Protection service stresses that the next 72 hours will see an extremely elevated risk of rural fires.

All it takes is ‘one spark’: thus the list of activities that cannot take place range from the obvious ban on fires of any kind (including barbecues), to the use of machine tools (that can let off sparks), smoking of cigarettes or anything similar in forest areas and the fumigation of beehives. Essentially anything that could cause any kind of fire cannot be used anywhere near dry, open land.

Meantime, the dozens of people whose lives have been shattered are coming together, discovering the extraordinary network of support that has sprung up to help them, and trying to imagine their way forwards.

The fact that national news media has labelled these people ‘illegals’ and ‘largely foreigners’ has not helped.

Some have been living in Portugal for more than three decades; at least one works within the State education system, others in private education. They came here to live simply and peacefully, and that is exactly what they were doing until a wall of flames bore down on them last Friday.

Said one today, the mother of three children, much too traumatised for an interview face-to-face: “We are utterly devastated by the loss of our beloved home, and still in total shock. It has been incredible how much love and support we have received from friends, villagers of Barão S. Miguel, strangers and the Freguesias of Barão São Miguel and Vila do Bispo. We are overwhelmed. I have no words, only tears to express my thanks to all our wonderful and diverse community, who have joined hands and embraced us”.

Details of fund-raising appeals can be consulted on the original story of the fire, link given above, and below.

As the statement from one of the many victims explains, the parishes of Vila do Bispo and Barão S, Miguel have been extremely supportive, and are offering all kinds of supplies.

A central drop-off point for donations right now is La Tapadera, a small café in the village of Barão de São João.

Image: one of the many devastated properties, this one photographed by Femke Irik