Almancil riding centre on fire

FOREST FIRES are a threat we live with in Portugal when we choose rural areas for our homesteads or villas. This year, the prospects are even worse due to the drought and the lack of water in wells and dams.

Last week was traumatic for the Pinetrees Riding Centre in Almancil, when a forest fire swept through the neighbouring pinewoods on Thursday. Luckily, the bombeiros soon had the situation in hand. However, on Friday, at the same time of around 2pm, several pines ignited just 200m away and the fire proved harder to control as it was getting nearer to the riding centre and its 16 horses.

Within a short space of time, the fire jumped some 100m, landing on the straw and haystack of 500 bales and onto wooden storage buildings. The process of evacuating the horses was already underway with various volunteers taking them to nearby stables, Horses’ Paradise (themselves threatened by the Thursday fire), and to Zoe Dickinson’s.

The damage could have been worse. Hay and straw is scarce this year and prices have rocketed. The precious hay had only recently arrived from Holland at great cost. The forest, which was much admired and enjoyed by nature lovers, waits for nature to take its course and regenerate – or will it be yet another opportunity for more buildings to spring up?

Praise and thanks have to go to the many friends who helped in so many ways and to Planal, Jardim Vista and David Rodrigues, who willingly sent along JCBs to help the fire brigade.

Re-ignition of the fires was the next problem. On Saturday, the hay burst into flames again and the bombeiros were needed to put out the fire. All weekend, in the neighbouring pinewoods, smoke continued to appear out of the ground where charred wood, covered by earth still smouldered. Luckily, neighbours Power Jet Services parked their large water carrying vehicle in the vicinity of the smoke and helped in the vigil of regularly checking and hosing down the smoking ground.

Even though the centre had provision for fire fighting with hoses and extinguishers, the water supply and pressure is never enough to cope with a situation like this and full thanks must go to the prompt action by the fire services, who, no doubt, will be in much demand this summer.~

By Bev Gibbons

Pinetrees Riding Centre