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Firemen in reinforced attack on blazes started by arsonist in Monchique

Firemen from all over the Algarve are now battling the flames that began in areas around Monchique just after 5pm on Saturday.

According to reports, up to 239 men, including firefighters from Beja, have been on the ground since 6am this morning.

Reinforcements from Évora and Lisbon are expected in the next few hours, while the military will be drafted in for “vigilance efforts in the areas where the fire has already been extinguished”, says Lusa.

Efforts for what is considered the only “important outbreak” in the last 24-hours on continental Portugal are being backed by 62 firefighting vehicles and five forest clearing machines.

Talking to Lusa early this morning, fire commander Ricardo Marques explained: “The area that worries us most at the moment is the southern part of the fire” around Fóia “as the part in the north has already been consolidated. At the moment, the greatest challenge is isolated dwellings and the fact that access is difficult”.

Priorities are “the protection of property and homes”, he added, saying that for safety’s sake two people – one elderly, the other of reduced mobility – have already been evacuated and housed with family members.

Mayor Rui André has explained in a post on Facebook that the fires appear to have been started by a man from Loulé.

“Without doubt, the strategy of combat is compromised when you come up against arson”, he wrote, “which has been confirmed by the detention of an individual”.

Praising the “excellent work of Monchique GNR who caught the man alleged to be responsible red-handed”, André adds that the 47-year-old is due to be presented to magistrates in Portimão tomorrow (Monday).

“Justice cannot allow this kind of criminal activity that puts the people’s lives and property at risk”.

According to Sulinformação, fires broke out in a number of areas all around the same time: Porto de Lagos and Caldas de Monchique being other llocations that caused concern but where the fires have now been tackled.

Lusa has added that Civil Protection rates an “important outbreak” when it comes to fire as one that covers a large area, rages for more than three hours and involves more than 15 firefighters.

Sadly, 2016 has already been marked by far too many “important outbreaks” – many of them caused by arsonists – and the country’s ‘critical fire period’ dubbed Charlie still has almost a month left to run.

A quick look at the ‘fire site’ fogos.pt shows the situation elsewhere is still extremely complicated, with other blazes also being registered throughout the Algarve.

UPDATE SUNDAY PM:

The situation in Fóia was reported to be almost under control around lunchtime on Sunday.

Mayor Rui André added a new post to his timeline saying the flames at last appear to be abating “despite the adverse conditions” (including intense heat), and that hopes are that the threat will be resolved as quickly as possible.

Subsequent posts elsewhere suggested there were still active sources, however, and locals were still extremely concerned.

Fogos.pt also showed the blaze to be “in course” and significant.

Noticiasaominuto website added that at this stage 411 firefighters are ‘on the ground’, backed by 127 vehicles and eight fire-fighting planes and helicopters.

Earlier today, Kiss FM radio station issued a warning to people to keep away from access roads to Monchique as the build up of traffic is hampering the work of emergency services.

But by 8pm on Sunday evening the fire was well under control and the panic, for now at least, appears to be over.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com