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“Authetic inferno” returns to Monchique

Just before 8pm last night, the massive fire that raged throughout Saturday night and almost all Sunday reignited with ferocity in Monchique, creating two active fronts that have quickly encircled the village of Casais.

Right now, over 350 firefighters are on the ground, backed by 116 vehicles, but until air support flies in the situation remains “extremely complicated”.

Householders who lived through similar dramas in the fires of 2003 and 2005 have been evacuated, three firemen admitted to hospital with injuries (later released) and latest reports suggest one of the fronts could make its way south towards the borough of Portimão.

With updates coming through the day, readers can also follow the panorama throughout the country on fogos.pt.

At this point (8.30am), this latest Monchique blaze is still registered as “significant”, as are two others near the border with Spain at Guarda, and in Freixo de Espada à Cinto, in Bragança.

Faro’s district commander Vaz Pinto has described this reignition of last weekend’s arson drama in which over 380 hectares of forestland was burnt as “very explosive” – particularly as the area is being fanned by strong winds and access is difficult.

Television reports suggest the outcome of today’s combat will depend hugely on the contribution of helicopters and amphibious aircraft.

UPDATE 10am:

With the arrival on the scene of six firefighting planes and helicopters hopes are that the front currently bearing down on heavily populated areas of Montes de Cima and Senhora do Verde, in the borough of Portimão, can be stopped from consuming homes and outlying farm properties.

Reports now are that the two fronts, extending 5km, have developed into three, one of which is travelling west towards Aljezur.

UPDATE MIDDAY: Situation still “uncontrollable” on two of the fronts, despite the fact that one of the firefighting planes is the Russian ‘supercraft’ Beriev, with a water-carrying capacity of 12,000 litres.

Threat to Montes de Cima and Senhora do Verde continues, as flames have penetrated into borough of Portimão.

Bombeiros “urgently need supplies of water NOT bigger than 500ml , energy drinks , energy snacks , fruit juices , fruit , socks , towels , tinned food such as ham or tuna”, which should be delivered to collection/ drop off points, as follows:

Direct transport, in Porches – Helen Bradley
Between The Lines, Tunes.
The Old House in Albufeira, between 8.30pm and 1am
Icelands at Algarve Shopping
Bookworms, just down from the Bull ring roundabout
The Olive Branch, on the road between Paderne and Messines
Paws4Pets on the road from Ferreiras to Albufeira
Restaurant a Grelha, Vale Fuzeiros
The Village Inn Restaurant, Mexilhoeira de Carregação after 5pm

These details have been taken off Facebook, where residents keen to help firefighters say a PAYPAL account has been opened for those people who
cannot deliver supplies to drop off points.

The account details are: bombeirosalgarve@gmail.com

Over 400 firemen are now involved in this huge battle which is showing no signs yet of being brought under control.

UPDATE 2pm:

Fire now said to be “burning freely in the area of Senhora do Verde”, and still threatening to go further.

Fears are that it could reach the Algarve International Autodrome.

Meantime ash flying in the air is already falling in Portimão, say reports.

UPDATE 3.30pm:

Canil de Portimão and Cadela Carlota animal assocation on alert in case the fire changes direction.

Appeal ongoing over Facebook for people to offer paddock-refuge for animals that may have to be evacuated.

By now the smoke from this fire, started on purpose late afternoon last Saturday can be seen almost throughout the entire region, from Aljezur in the west all the way past Quarteira.

UPDATE 5pm:

Portimão’s Hotel Pestana, near the Algarve International Autodrome, currently being evacuated as a safety precaution.

Residents in Monte de Cima have also been advised to leave their homes, writes noticiasaominuto website, though for the time being homes and lives are described as “not at risk”.

The number of firefighters now on the ground has been increased to 500, while air support is up by two further craft to nine (five planes and four helicopters).

CMTV suggests the two active fronts (one to the south, the other towards Aljezur) are now ‘controlled’, though flames continue to rage.

UPDATE 7pm:

Reports explain that the exceptionally high winds are now making work “even more difficult”. The two ‘active fronts’ still in evidence are posing significant problems and fears are that darkness will come earlier than normal (due to the intensity of smoke) and thus preclude efforts by the firefighting planes and helicopters.

The chances of this blaze being dominated tonight are small, but manpower has been further beefed to 600 operatives working on the ground.

LATEST:

As air support has been forced to stop until daybreak, fire commander Vaz Pinto has admitted that the “night will not be a friend to firefighters”. He has also suggested this latest drama may not have been a simple re-ignition of Saturday’s massive blaze around Fóia.

“It is strange that a fire that was ‘consolidated’ (for all intents and purposes, extinguished) should have reignited with such ferocity”, he told reporters late this afternoon. “It is up to authorities to investigate”.

As we wrote earlier this week, the man believed to have started the fires that raged on Saturday and into Sunday is currently in preventive custody, awaiting trial.

FRIDAY UPDATES:

Monchique mayor Rui André has confirmed that this latest outbreak, still being tackled by 603 men on the ground, 195 land vehicles and 8 planes and helicopters, has already seen more hectares burnt than during the initial fires over the weekend.

An exact tally of damage is unlikely to come today, but the weekend’s fires devastated 380 hectares, so we are looking at 800 hectares at the very least as a final count.

Update 11am:

Numbers fighting the fire have now been boosted to 653 operatives on the ground, 209 land-based vehicles and still 8 planes/ helicopters.

Two fronts still described as ‘active’ – one to the south of Monchique into the borough of Portimão alongside the Autodrome, and another to the north.

Word on social media is that the situation around the autodrome is looking ‘better’. The wind has calmed and temperatures too are lower than yesterday.

MIDDAY: Air support boosted to 9, operatives on the ground to 685, land-based vehicles now 219: two fronts still posing serious problems, one house reported to be in danger of being in path of flames but firefighters battling to save it.

Anyone reading this list of updates should remember the list of items to be handed in to fire stations anywhere in the region (see above). Dry socks and boxer shorts/ underwear are particularly needed today, as is cream for burns.

More details of what can be handed in can be found on story on Silves fire (see elsewhere on our website).

UPDATE 4pm: still no really good news. The fire is still going, it is still ranked as significant, the wind is still blowing and although the government says it is “concerned” with the fires, it considers the number of operatives on the ground (668 last count) and the number of firefighting planes and helicopters (now reduced to 8) should be sufficient.

MEANTIME, news on social media carries a clip of another “huge fire” in Vila Real de Santo António, between Ayamonte and Isla Cristina. This has not yet appeared on the national fire watch site: fogos.pt

Elsewhere, a new ‘significant’ outbreak has been registered in Guarda (Seia, Sabugueiro), an area already battered by fires this year.

UPDATE 6pm:
As evening approaches, air support is down to 6 and will soon pull out altogether.

Manpower too is down slightly and the night ahead is critical. For now, the fronts are tagged still as “significant” but television reports are already talking about them being ‘under control’.

It all depends now on the wind, firemen staying vigilant and arsonists remaining at home.

UPDATE 8pm:

Brilliant news… those fingers crossed over the Algarve may have worked: the Monchique fire has just been tagged as in ‘resolution’ phase. It’s the second time this has been posted since last Saturday, but if we keep those fingers crossed (all night!) it may stay that way.

More updates to come … tomorrow.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com