Image: Paulo Cunha/ Lusa

Portugal wildfires: Monday morning ‘situation report’

Three fires in Santarém, Leiria and Vila Real “the most worrying”

The most worrying forest fires in Portugal this morning were in the districts of Santarem, Leiria and Vila Real, with aircraft likely to be called in to help firefighters in the coming hours, a civil defence source has told Lusa.

Rodrigo Bretelo, operations officer at the National Authority for Emergency and Civil Protection (ANEPC) said that “during the night there was no need to evacuate locations” since “there was no houses in danger” and the “three fires were kept at the level of consolidation and aftermath.

“At this hour the fire of Cumeada, municipality of Ourém, in Santarém, which began on Thursday and is with 585 firefighters and 196 vehicles, remains,” he went on. “The fire is mostly in resolution and active surveillance. It only did not pass the resolution (phase) because we had some reactivations during the night.

“As the area is very extensive and we have many hot spots, surveillance and aftermath remains in place,” he added.

According to Bretelo, the fire that broke out on Friday afternoon in Vale da Pia, municipality of Pombal, in the district of Leiria, also remains in the same situation of aftermath and active surveillance. This morning, 342 firefighters were on the ground, backed up by 108 vehicles.

“Given the extensive area of the fire, it remains in progress, although in its perimeter we are in active surveillance work, and there was only at about 7.20 a.m. one reactivation in the locality of Sarzeda,” he said.

Another concern is a blaze that broke out on Sunday afternoon in Canedo, Ribeira de Pena (Vila Real district), which at 8 a.m. today was being battled by 150 firefighters, with 143 vehicles.

“At 7.10 it was in aftermath, but in one of its sectors it was active, albeit giving way,” said Bretelo.

The ANEPC officer also said that in the coming hours aircraft would be activated if necessary.

Mainland Portugal at midnight entered a state of contingency (the second-highest of three levels of alert). This is to last until midnight on Friday but could be extended, again if necessary.

The declaration was made due to weather forecasts for the coming days, which point to the worsening of the risk of fire as maximum temperatures may exceed 45ºC in parts of the country.

Due to the situation, Portugal has activated the European Civil Protection Mechanism; under this, the European Commission on Sunday mobilised two Spanish planes to fight the fires on Portuguese territory.

Source: LUSA