Inferno! Fires have begun

news: Inferno! Fires have begun

SUMMER HAS well and truly arrived, and, sadly, so have the fires. One hundred hectares of forest were reduced to ashes in the Algarve boroughs of Portimão and Silves last weekend after a fire, which began in the Porto do Lagos area, quickly spread to Silves.

The estate of Morgado de Argés, situated north of the Via do Infante motorway, was especially badly affected. The cause of this fire is not yet known, but there is the possibility that it was due to carelessness or even criminal intent. The incident is currently being investigated by police.

In total, 120 firefighters, 25 fire engines and a helicopter were the means necessary to put out the flames that had sprung up in three separate places. The helicopter, which dropped water onto the burning area, proved vitally important as it also allowed the transportation of a brigade of nine firemen to reach several locations that are practically inaccessible by land.

According to the Comandante Operacional do Barlavento, Vítor Rio, “the wind was the greatest enemy of the bombeiros. It was blowing very strongly and constantly changing direction”.

The Resident contacted Silves Câmara, where a source confirmed that “no people or buildings were affected by the blaze – just forest”. However, the source emphasised that the authorities were “still maintaining vigilance in the area”.

Outbreaks of forest fires have been the scourge of the last two summers all over Portugal, but particularly in the Algarve, with flames destroying thousands of acres of forests, burning down countless buildings and instilling fear and panic into numerous communities, with many people forced to evacuate their homes.

Scores of injuries were suffered by firefighters and local people in their attempts to put out or escape from the fires. In a few tragic cases, individuals lost their lives. In addition, many animals perished in the blazes, trapped in fields consumed by flames.

Authorities are predicting that 2005 could be the worst year yet for forest fires as the country is experiencing a severe drought situation. Dry, arid conditions provide a perfect scenario for the hungry flames to ravish enormous areas.

As well as clearing land and taking preventative measures at your property, vigilance and prompt reporting is essential. The earlier fires are spotted and reported, the less time they have to spread.

The Resident advises readers to call 112 and inform the Bombeiros when noticing a fire, however small, even if there is a chance it might have already been reported. In areas of dry vegetation, barbecues should only be made with great care and it is advisable to keep a garden hose nearby. Finally, be very careful when discarding cigarettes.