Devastating loss suffered by rural tourism business TEIMA in Odemira's Vale Juncal. Image: facebook
Devastating loss suffered by rural tourism business TEIMA in Odemira's Vale Juncal. Image: facebook

Odemira wildfire ‘dominated’; firefighters remain in force

15 air support to stay active throughout Wednesday

Civil protection commander Vítor Vaz Pinto has official declared the wildfire that began in Odemira five days ago to have been ‘dominated’.

That doesn’t mean it is over; but given the situation on the ground, the incident is ‘under control’. 

Reignitions may happen over the course of the day, but they should be confined to burnt areas.

There are still two significant spots on the southern perimeter (within the Algarve) that could cause trouble, but firefighters are aware of them and in large numbers (over 1,000).

Fifteen water-carrying planes and helicopters will also remain operating for the next 24-hours.

The Algarve regional commander revised the ‘burnt area’ given yesterday downwards, suggesting ‘only’ 8,400 hectares have been devastated by this blaze (not the 10,000 given yesterday), and praised the work of all entities involved this far.

As the immediate danger subsides, reports have been coming in of damages caused – in many cases to properties that were ‘precarious’/ unlicensed (‘illegal’). A story doing the rounds last night however was of a rural tourism business within Odemira municipality (TEIMA, in Vale Juncal) which was evacuated, but left to be consumed by flames.

In a series of posts over social media, the owners have lamented “there was not one single firefighter to defend us”; also saying that news of the destruction of their business had not elicited “even a phone call of support” from the borough mayor.

TEIMA vows to be back once repairs have been undertaken – but it is just a small cameo of damages this fire will have caused.

SIC Notícias has referred to the number of cork oaks and medronheiro trees affected. Some will survive, but others may not

Odemira mayor Hélder Guerreiro has already called the situation a “tragedy”, calling on the government to help the sectors affected (essentially agriculture and tourism).

In all, 42 people had to be assisted during this fire, nine of them requiring transport to hospital. No one was seriously injured.

Elsewhere, a number of animals are known to have died; others are still missing.

With the situation nationally also ‘calming’, discussions have returned to the reasons for fires picking up such momentum: the lack of effective forestry management.

‘Experts’ interviewed on television have stressed that the largest forestry owner is the government, ergo these fires cannot be ‘blamed’ on landowners not clearing their land sufficiently, as this means the government is also guilty.

Investigator and professor in geography António Bento has stressed that rules brought in requiring homeowners to clear 50 metres around their property have done little to reduce fire risks as “continuous swathes of wild pines and eucalyptus” remain in evidence, both vegetation that “burns easily” – and both the kind of trees that can send projections (flames) up to 100 metres during a fire.

Thus today is a moment, on the Odemira/ Aljezur/ Monchique borders at least, for consolidation, to keep the ground damped-down and reignitions to a minimum.

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