Impeding firefighters doing their work

Dear Editor,

Our Safe Communities Facebook page posted, during the Monchique fires, advice from police and civil protection that people should not venture near the fires to take photos etc, as this may impede the work of firefighters. This reached around 25,000 people, was shared by 240 people, but it seems for some to have fallen on deaf ears.

Since the Monchique fires I have met with the Civil Protection Initial Incident Commander, and he was very clear in stating that the presence of onlookers and some elements of the media near to the fires was an unwelcome distraction to their main work, namely to bring the fire under control as soon as possible in order to preserve life and property.

This meant that valuable resources had to deal with these onlookers, who seem to have a morbid fascination of putting their own lives at risk as well as others, namely those who may need to rescue them.

Having been an incident commander dealing with major crime issues in the past, I can guarantee that the presence of onlookers is not helpful in such circumstances.

The second point he made, and has asked Safe Communities to promote, is that we are still in the critical fire period, and this means no lighting of fires to clean land.

On September 19, it was a cloudy overcast day in some areas of the Algarve and there were at least three reports of people burning rubbish on their land.

The laws are very clear on this, that no burning or lighting fires of any sort is allowed in the rural areas when the critical fire period is in force until September 30 and thereafter, when the fire risk is “extreme” or “very high”.

We all wish to help the emergency services and following the above advice will go some way in doing that.

David Thomas
President, Safe Communities Portugal