Fire chief Fernando Curto

Crisis: Fire chief Fernando Curto warns of risks as service lacks 5,000 firemen

It’s another consequence of the crisis and it is putting the country at risk. As Portugal’s spring gives way to the driest months of the year, fire chief Fernando Curto has warned that the country is lacking as many as 5,000 firemen.
Speaking at last weekend’s firefighters’ association congress, Curto said the situation has been largely “imposed by the government” as it is limiting the entry of new workers onto the state payroll.
The service is losing professionals, he added – either through retirement or as a result of firemen leaving the country “to seek better conditions” abroad.
“We’re worried,” he stressed. “And the town councils are worried.”
Lisbon is at least 500 firefighters short. Porto lacks 300, Faro 100 – and elsewhere, “from Bragança to Faro”, stations are working short-handed.
“If a five-man team works with just two or three, it is logical that rescue services are at risk – and the risk for the firemen themselves increases.”
In forest fires throughout the country last summer a total of eight firefighters lost their lives, while others were injured, and much of the blame was put down to poor coordination on the ground and lack of training.
Curto told the congress that “better instruction” was vital, while a “modernisation of the system” is also needed.