fire in Leira

Arson in Leiria: mayor claims ‘there is a criminal on loose’

“He/ she is living among us” … and has been for last decade

The number of fires starting at unlikely times and often almost in unison in the municipality of Leiria every summer for the last decade has led mayor Gonçalo Lopes to admit: there is a criminal on the loose.

“We live with a criminal”, he told a council meeting this week. “There is a criminal who has been causing fires one after the other for the last decade”. Leiria (specifically the areas within the parishes of Carangeujeira and Arrabal) is “a territory under threat”.

“We can call what’s happening terrorism or guerrilla warfare,” he said, stressing police (both regular and judicial) have been reinforced on the ground, and are continuing to investigate possible suspects.

The problem with these fires, and where they ignite, is that they border areas in the municipality of Ourém, which have also succumbed to this scourge of fire-raising.

Ourém latest fire coincided with the first heatwave in August, and the devastating fire in São Teotónio.

In the past, images from intense fires in the area have been carried by international media.

This was an iconic image from the fires that spread into Ourém in July 2022. Image: Lusa

For now, requests have been made for reinforcements from the Armed Forces, which “probably” will be granted tomorrow, says Lopes. He doesn’t know however how many teams will be made available.

The military is already making “regular flights with a drone throughout this area”, in another effort at locating the ‘criminal’, or potentially criminals.

In a brief analysis of this year’s rural fires, Luís Lopes revealed that by Friday last week, 776 hectares had burned in the municipality of Leiria. So far, there are no records of any homes or businesses having been burnt.

“In the parish of Caranguejeira, there was a trend reduction until 2013, but now we’re seeing an increase. Last year we had 20 ignitions and this year we’re already at 14. The area burnt is the same as in 2022 and we haven’t finished the year yet,” he added.

This is not the first time Leiria’s mayor has said the wildfires in his municipality have nothing to do with chance.

Source material: LUSA