Intense heat sees 222 fires in central and northern Portugal over weekend

Portugal’s intense heat over the weekend, continuing today and expected only to reduce gradually over the course of the week, saw no less than 222 fires flare up on Sunday alone.

Today (Monday) there are fires at various stages up and down the country.

In the Algarve, two (one in Aljezur and the other in the borough of Loulé) were rated as “in the phase of conclusion” as we wrote this story.

The tragedy is that July frequently sees “the worst fires of the year”, and as Jaime Marta Soares, president of the Portuguese league of fireman, has told reporters – despite all the efforts being made, there is “no real fire prevention policy in effect”.

“That is our greatest problem”, he explained over the weekend. “The land that burned in 2005 today is in the same or an even worse condition.”

Landowners are not seeing to it that land is kept clear of hazards and flammable undergrowth, and when conditions are ‘right’, fires flare up left right and centre.

July 23 (Sunday) was the day in which more forest fires were raging than on any other day, so far, this year.

By 9pm last night, a total of 4,000 firemen supported by 1,021 vehicles and 51 helicopters and planes had been fighting fires in the districts of Porto, Braga, Aveiro and Santarém.

Mercifully, the Algarve and Lisbon areas were free from fires, though two flared up earlier today near the coast.

The reason for the central and northern areas being most affected lies in the fact that winds were involved, whereas elsewhere in the country, there was hardly a breeze.

Today’s highs of 42º in some areas (Évora, Beja and Braga) have put four districts on red alert, while the rest of the country remains on orange (secondary) alert.

UV rays too are ‘high’, say health chiefs, issuing the usual warnings for people to avoid sun exposure during the hottest parts of the day, between 11am and 4pm.