Photo: RUI MINDERICO/LUSA

Odemira fire: “Excellent performance” of firefighters stopped flames from spreading further

The Odemira wildfire which broke out in Sabóia on Wednesday at 1pm was brought under control yesterday at 6.40pm. The fire is believed to have destroyed around 1,100 hectares of land.

José Guilherme Marcos, regional commander of the Alentejo’s civil protection authority, said the fire had the potential to destroy around 6,000 hectares of land, but thanks to the “excellent performance of the men and women” who battled the flames for two days, the fire was contained sooner.

Over 470 firefighters, aided by 169 vehicles, remain at the scene to prevent any reignitions from spreading.

The increase of humidity levels last night also helped keep the blaze under control, Marcos added.

A more extensive review of the damage caused is still due to take place, although Odemira Mayor José Alberto Guerreiro said the flames destroyed “several beehives” as well as large areas of strawberry trees (medronheiros).

Said the mayor, the fire has “obviously affected many people as the economy here revolves very much around the forest”.

He added that the flames are not believed to have destroyed any houses or infrastructure apart from “two annexes”.

Meanwhile, Monchique Mayor Rui André said that the efforts by firefighting forces helped keep the borough from being severely affected by the fire.

“As the fire was expected to move towards Monchique, several bulldozers were used and measures were taken to prevent the flames from entering the borough,” said the mayor.

“The strategy worked, we were able to stop the fire before it entered the borough, although a small area of eucalyptus trees was destroyed,” he said.

Seventeen people were evacuated from their homes due to the blaze but have since been allowed to return to their homes. A 20-year-old man sustained first and second-degree burns on 40% of his body and was taken to hospital. Three other people are said to have sustained minor injuries.

This was the second major wildfire to affect the south of Portugal in less than one week. A blaze raged for 40 hours on Monday and Tuesday in Castro Marim, having spread to Tavira and Vila Real de Santo António. Around 6,700 hectares of land are believed to have been destroyed.

José Guilherme Marcos urged citizens to avoid “risky behaviour” that could potentially start fires and to follow authorities’ rules and recommendations.

“This helps avoid these kinds of occurrences. We cannot forget that our (firefighting) means are finite,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, Tomás Silva from GNR police said that an investigation is underway to determine the cause of this latest conflagration.

michael.bruxo@algarveresident.com