Image: Lusa

Flames ‘devour Serra da Estrela natural park’

Blaze in central region been going for three days

More than 620 firefighters continued this morning to battle a wildfire that began in a rural area of Covilhã in the early hours of Saturday morning. 

The blaze – that was almost certainly the work of arson – has now devoured large areas of the Serra da Estrela natural park.

At least one national road (the EN338) has been closed to traffic; a hotel has had to be evacuated as a precaution – and the flames even threatened the Volta de Portugal cycle event, which had to divert from its planned circuit.

The trouble with this blaze is that it is in areas of rural landscape with extremely difficult access, and the wind is complicating efforts at firefighting.

For the time being, no homes appear to be in danger, albeit three firefighters have had to be pulled out of the ‘theatre of operations’ due to issues, including ‘burns and trauma’. One of the operatives has been transported to hospital; another was treated at a nearby health centre.

Meantime, around 70 boroughs in the northern centre of the country remain at maximum risk for wildfires today, while another 60 are at elevated risk (including the majority of boroughs in the Algarve).

Temperatures however have fallen in terms of the last few weeks, which is why authorities have done away with ‘situation of alert, or emergency’ status.

That said, forestry businesses are warning they are “on the brink of ruin”, due to restrictions that mean they cannot work with cutting machinery, unless ‘after sunset and before 11am’.

As Ricardo Matias, a woodsman working in Monchique, told Correio da Manhã, “working with a chainsaw at night is dangerous, and none of us have insurance”. The restrictions essentially mean work can only be done between 6am and 11am, and that, he says, is taking concerns like his to the risk of financial collapse.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com