A power line has been named a “possible cause” of the devastating fire that destroyed around 27,000 hectares of land in Monchique, Silves and Portimão last summer.
While PJ police have since released a short statement guaranteeing that the cause of the fire “has been determined” and that foul play is not suspected, the independent observatory tasked by parliament with investigating the fire had said earlier on Thursday that it suspects the blaze may have started due to a power line which came into contact with eucalyptus trees.
The power line was reportedly used by EDP, says the observatory.
“There are early pictures in which flames are visible near the spot and there is evidence that suggests that the powerline may have caused the fire as there were eucalyptus trees nearby that were high enough to come into contact with its cables, although EDP’s version says otherwise,” the observatory says in a report delivered to Parliament on Thursday.
The Observatório Técnico Indendente (OTI) – as it is called in Portuguese – stresses that while this scenario has not been officially confirmed, it fears the danger that power lines represent and defends that authorities should be extremely wary of the ones that are located near eucalyptus trees, which are among the most susceptible species to the quick spread of blazes.
Also lambasted is the failure from firefighting forces to prevent the many reignitions that kept the fire raging for seven days, which the observatory says should be the subject of its own investigation “to hold those who failed to do what they were supposed to accountable”.
The OTI says there was a “lack of strategy, committment, ability to follow orders and motivation to use the manual tools” at the disposal of firefighting teams.
A total of 93 reignitions were registered between August 4 and 9, more than half of which occured between midday and 6pm when the weather was hotter, humidity was lower and winds were stronger.
“What happened in the morning of August 4 illustrates the issues as the hot spots were perfectly identified and should have been adequately put out. The poor job carried out was key to what happened in the coming days and to the extent of the fire’s damage,” said the OTI.
The observatory also criticises the “lack of efficiency” of the investigation into the cause of the fire, saying that it is “at the very least strange that a known cause to a fire of this proportion is not yet known”.
This is likely what spurred PJ police into guaranteeing that a cause has already been determined and that investigation is due to be “completed soon”.