Portuguese firefighters head for France

As meteorologists predict another hot summer ahead, a team of 30 Portuguese bombeiros from Santarém has left for Valabre in the South of France, to take part in a training exercise to tackle a simulated forest blaze. This joint EU exercise will run between April 18 and April 24. The Portuguese representation was organised by the National Fire and Civil Protection Service (SNBPC).

Aside from Portugal, teams from France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Slovenia, Slovakia, Croatia, Luxembourg, Germany, Belgium and Sweden will participate in an initiative, organised by the Safety and Civil Defence Board of the European Commission.

The Portuguese team is headed by the commander of Santarém’s municipal bombeiros, Pedro Carvalho, and also involves the district co-ordinator of the bombeiros and two officials from the SNBPC. “This exercise is one further step towards the effective collaboration of the civil protection services across Europe, cementing European solidarity in this domain,” said a source from the SNPBC.

The move is particularly welcome in Portugal, as the authorities have been forced to enlist help from other European countries in the past. In particular, fire chiefs sought Spanish aerial support during last year’s forest fires and they admit that any previous joint training programme allows foreign firefighters to work more effectively when tackling large blazes in unfamiliar terrain.