Five Portuguese districts – taking in 32 boroughs, including almost every part of the Algarve – are on high fire risk alert this week, with strong winds making the threat even more serious.
By coincidence, the Algarve’s call for a plan to attract 300 much-needed firefighters before the start of this year’s critical “Charlie” season (July 1 to September 30) has just been aired on national television.
As he set out to fellow Algarve counterparts a few weeks ago, Monchique mayor Rui André says an initiative is needed to help attract summertime cover to Algarve fire stations (click here).
The problem is one of finances. Voluntary firefighters receive payments of just €60, explains RTP, for 24-hours hard, high risk work, while they can receive far safer, better-paid jobs waiting tables on the coast.
As a result, when the critical fire season kicks in, fire stations up and down the country find themselves suddenly depleted of ‘voluntary firefighters’ who the rest of the year are available to make up platoons alongside salaried ‘professional’ colleagues.
André told the station that only government action can change this reality. It’s time, he said, for firefighting to be valued in the same way as police and security forces.
In the meantime, councils will do their best to keep voluntary firefighters at their posts during the summer by offering ‘incentives’, like rates’ reductions and help with rents and municipal taxes.
But if nothing more substantial is done, warns RTP, voluntary firefighters will continue become scarcer and scarcer.