Red fire alert remains in place “for next few days”
With firefighters stretched to the limit throughout August, the latest ‘serious fire’ broke out “suddenly and with great violence” at around 12.45 this afternoon.
Within a few hours it was being tackled by almost 200 firefighters, sundry vehicles and seven water-carrying planes and helicopters – the intention being to try and stop flames gathering further intensity.
For now, no homes or businesses appear to be under threat: this is simply another wildfire in open land, taking over from blazes that have been appearing with all too rapid frequency throughout central and northern areas, this month particularly.
Civil Protection commander André Fernandes said at a press conference (before the Mogadouro fire broke out) that “despite the forecast for a drop in temperatures over the next few days, the special red alert will be maintained. We are maintaining the maximum fire risk index for the whole of mainland Portugal”.
Fernandes reiterated entreaties to citizens to “adapt behaviours to the risk of fire”.
“Yesterday (Wednesday) was the fifth day this month with the highest number of fires recorded in August”, he said – a total of 80 ignitions.
So far, August 7 has been the ‘worst day of the month’, with 113 fires recorded in a 24-hour period.
“Since 00:00 today (Thursday) we’ve had 20 fires registered, involving 389 firefighters with the support of 100 vehicles.
“We are keeping 18 fires under surveillance and carrying out aftermath actions across the country, with the main ones from yesterday (Wednesday) in Nelas and Ourém standing out,” he added.
According to Fernandes, 957 firefighters were involved in these two fires, with the support of 308 land and air resources.
The fire in Urqueira, in the municipality of Ourém, in the district of Santarém, which broke out at the end of yesterday afternoon, was declared ‘contained’ at 05:06 this morning.
The fire that broke out at 12.24pm yesterday in the municipality of Nelas, in the district of Viseu, was declared controlled at 2.30 am.
With regard to these two fires, commander Fernandes said that there were 16 people needing medical assistance, all of whom were slightly injured, without “major concern”.
“In Nelas, four people were evacuated from their homes as a precaution due to anxiety, and stayed overnight in a support area in the municipality. They have already returned home. And in Ourém, three children and a person with reduced mobility were also evacuated in the village of Carvalhal de Baixo as a precaution and have now returned to their homes,” he added.
The ANEPC national commander also emphasised that at 09:00 today, there were no roads closed due to fires.
Mayor of Ourém, Luís Albuquerque, told news conference that 60% of ignitions are the result of criminal activity.
In recent years, the municipality of Ourém, in the district of Santarém, has been frequently hit by flames; yesterday was no exception. Luís Albuquerque said that this summer alone the municipality has had “60 wildfires”.
“60% are considered intentional. We need to increase our surveillance of the forest and put more resources on the ground to see if we can identify the criminals who have been doing this,” he emphasised.
According to Albuquerque, a large number of firefighters are still on the ground to ensure the latest post-fire clean-up. He also warned “there is still a lot of work ahead of us”.
In view of the drop in temperatures, Ourém’s mayor was cautious: “We’ll see what happens over the next few days…”
And then another major fire broke out, which as we went to press, had 9 aircraft attacking from above, as over 200 firefighters worked in sweltering temperatures on the ground.