PJ police investigate cause of Odemira wildfire

Suspect it started in picnic area near village of São Miguel

Portugal’s judicial police (PJ), the country’s main criminal investigation agency, suspects the Odemira wildfire, which raged for the best part of five days, started in a picnic area.

The question is whether the blaze originated from negligence, or malicious behaviour.

A source has told State news agency Lusa that the fire “most probably started in a picnic area near the village of São Miguel”.

According to the PJ source, the investigation is being handled by the force’s Portimão criminal investigation department.

A team of investigators is on the ground “listening to witnesses and collecting information about the fire, as it happened”.

The fire in an area of scrub and pine forest broke out in the Baiona area, in the parish of São Teotónio, on Saturday afternoon. Baiona and São Miguel are literally a stone’s throw from the land border with the Algarve.

The fire has ostensibly been brought under control today, after engulfing around 8,400 hectares of land and property.

Flames destroyed at least two houses, a rural tourism business, several outbuildings/ cars/ machinery and untold crops, the mayors of Odemira and Aljezur have confirmed.

Civil protection service will also investigate action during wildfire 

Vítor Vaz Pinto, regional commander of the Algarve emergency and civil protection service has “admitted the possibility that there were situations that did not go well in fighting the wildfire (…) but assured that everything will be analysed once the fire has been extinguished”, writes Lusa today.

When questioned about a rural tourism business that burned down in São Teotónio, “and whose owner says she asked for help without anyone showing up, Vitor Vaz Pinto said he still has no information to know if this corresponds to what actually happened on the ground, but assured that this analysis will be done.

“I was made aware of this news. It is a news item, I do not know in detail what happened, but you will understand that, in an area of interest like this, which had a perimeter of 50 kms, there will be situations that may have gone less well. We will have to assess what happened and then we will see or not the veracity of these statements”, he said.

The picture of Luísa Botelho being confronted with the remains of her rural tourism business will be one of those coming from this fire that television viewers will find hard to forget.

She told Lusa: “I asked the GNR and the fire brigade to help us because I realised we were going to burn. We had to leave the place around 1pm on Monday and by 5.30pm I was desperate for news. I went through hills and valleys and saw that the main house was on fire, and there was not a single firefighter…”

Botelho said she even asked firefighters who were nearby with three fire engines on to help, but they replied that they had no orders to do so

About 80% of the TEIMA buildings ended up consumed by the flames.

Luísa Botelho has said she cannot understand why her property was not rescued when 500 metres down the road firefighters were protecting another hotel business.

Source material: LUSA