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Courts demand €1428 from seven-year-old whose firefighter mother was killed in action

The iniquities of Portuguese justice came into sharp focus this week when Viseu court sent the child of a dead firefighter a demand for €1428.

The sum covers the claim for damages lodged in the seven-year-old’s name after her 24-year-old mother was killed in the terrible wildfires of 2013.

Firefighter death tallies that year were the worst in the living memory of Portugal’s fire service: eight men and women died in separate incidents – four in the blazes on Caramulo’s hillside.

One of this four was Ana Rita Pereira, the mother of the child in whose name the Viseu courthouse bill arrived.

Her grandfather, a fireman at Alcabideche station near Cascais reacted by posting the news on social media.

“In a few days it was shared by more than 3000 people, receiving hundreds of comments, most of them vehemently critical of Portuguese justice”, reports national tabloid Correio da Manhã.

The family were later told that it was “perfectly normal” for people to be charged costs for any actions for civil damages that they lodge.

The worst of this situation, however, is that the family has not received a penny in damages, and may never see any coming through.

The two men serving prison sentences for starting the Caramulo fires were ordered to pay a total of €331,000 in damages, but have not done so, explains CM.

Ana Rita Pereira’s father-in-law José Carvalho told the paper the court bill has nonetheless been paid, as he “was frightened that his granddaughter’s account would be frozen” otherwise.

The family has meantime issued a complaint not only to the court, but to the firefighters’ league and the Ministry of Internal Administration.

FIRE SEASON EXTENDED BY TWO WEEKS

With the critical “Charlie” fire season due to end tomorrow, and without any significant rainfall since the worst summer fires for years, the government has announced that it is extending the time-limit to October 15.

What this effectively means is that the ban on all kinds of fires outdoors (from camping fires to bonfires) remain prohibited, as well as smoking in forests or agricultural lands.

Heavy machinery is also conditioned if not fitted with extinguishers or “retention systems” for sparks, etc.

A statement from the secretary of state for forestry said “meteorological conditions determine the adoption of this measure as forecasts are for the continuation of warm, dry weather with winds.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com