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Mother of “abandoned GIPS” burnt in wildfire “disgusted” to hear salaries now frozen

The mother of one of the three GIPS firefighters badly burned instants after they were left by a helicopter at the head of a wildfire on Monday (click here) has hit out at news that her son and his desperately injured colleagues will not be receiving their salaries while recovering in hospital.

Mother-of-four Célia Bernardo only learnt of the situation through an online newspaper.

She told us today that no-one from the GNR (which runs the GIPS force), or from the Ministry for Interior Administration (which is investigating the fire), has been in touch.

Célia’s 32-year-old son André Ferreira is in Lisbon’s S. José Hospital and faces months of treatment for 2nd and 3rd degree burns to his arms, legs and buttocks.

A father-of-one from Faro, it is believed that his wife has taken leave off work to be close to him in hospital.

Célia says she has no idea how the family will manage financially.

According to Observador, since 2003 it has been the policy for GNR agents injured in accidents to be paid by Social Security.

But the ‘change over’ takes time, says police syndicate vice-president Afonso Clérigo, suggesting there could be “a minimum of two months” in which families affected see no income at all.

Observador is the news source through which Célia Bernardo learnt (on Thursday evening) that her son would not be receiving his pay in the usual way.

She wrote over social media, saying: “I am disgusted… did they start the fire? Are they guilty of something??”

Due to speak with TVI this morning, Célia suggests blame is being shifted to her son’s worst injured colleague, the leader of the GIPS brigade dropped into the fire, who is lying in a coma in a Porto hospital. “Of course, in his state he cannot defend himself…” she writes.

There is much of this story now that remains unclear, says Observador. For example, “there are suspicions that the rules of action may not have been totally complied with”, and that there may have been “shared failing” behind this disaster.

Right now both the Ministry of Internal Administration and the GNR are conducting autonomous inquiries and the reports of the injured men will be crucial.

There is also the account of the farmer – named by Célia Bernardo as Carlos Matadinho – without whose rapid response she believes certainly three men would have perished.

But for now the “various days of intense media presence” powered by Afonso Clérigo appear to have come to an end.

Says Observador, Clérigo “had returned to silence” as the result of “a request by other elements of GIPS who prefer now to wait for the conclusion of the internal inquiries and focus on the recuperation of the injured agents”.

Clérigo’s greatest concern now, says the online paper – like that of André Ferreira’s mother Célia Bernardo – is “knowing how the families are going to survive” without the salaries of the seriously injured men.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com