Photo: BRUNO FILIPE PIRES/OPEN MEDIA GROUP

Monchique fire 2018: EDP and employee formally accused of negligent arson

After being named suspects in February, EDP Distribuição and one of the company’s employees have been formally accused of negligent arson in the investigation into Monchique’s devastating summer wildfire of 2018.

In a statement sent to Lusa news agency, EDP Distribuição says it was notified that the company and an employee have been “accused of the crime of forest fire through negligence, although it was considered unintentional and impossible to predict”.

It adds that both the company and the employee are “convinced that they followed all procedures correctly and that the clarification of the facts will prove so”.

EDP Distribuição also said it will prepare its defence and is “available to help determine the causes of the fire and how it evolved”.

In May 2019, an independent observatory tasked by Parliament with investigating the fire said it suspected the blaze may have started due to an EDP power line which came into contact with eucalyptus trees.

At the time, specialists from the observatory said there are “early pictures in which flames are visible near the spot and there is evidence that suggests that the powerline may have caused the fire as there were eucalyptus trees nearby that were high enough to come into contact with its cables”.

It was also reported that PJ police’s investigation led to the same scenario.

EDP, however, has remained adamant that it was not responsible for the blaze.

“Based on the available evidence, EDP Distribuição is convinced that the fire was not started by the powerline, as there is no powerline in the area identified by the National Civil Protection Authority as where the fire started,” the company said at the time in a statement sent to Lusa news agency.

The fire started on August 3, 2018 in the area of Perna Negra in Monchique and was later described as the largest of the year in Portugal and Europe, having raged for one week. Over 27,000 hectares of land and 74 houses were destroyed, 30 of which were primary residences.

michael.bruxo@algarveresident.com