Small-window-of-relief-from-extreme-heat-allows-government-to-reduce-fire-risk-status
National firefighting commander André Fernandes explains that whatever level Portugal's fire risk is given dangers remain very high due to the situation of drought coupled with low air humidity that has left land tinder-box dry

Small window of relief from extreme heat allows government to reduce fire risk status

Tuesday will see temperatures rise again: time for re-evaluation

Portugal today sees its risk of wildfires slightly reduce after a weekend in which a number of fires ‘reignited’, causing further problems.

A ‘situation of alert’ came into place at 00.00 hours this morning; replacing the slightly more extreme ‘situation of contingency’ as temperatures have reduced from last week’s ‘record heatwave’.

This is however only a “small window”, in the words of interior minister José Luís Carneiro.

On Tuesday, temperatures are set to increase yet again – and at that point, decision-makers will have to decide whether to return to the more stringent restrictions of a situation of contingency.

Monday morning began with the current worst fires on national territory – one that flared up in Chaves on Friday afternoon, two in Vila Real and another in Castelo Branco – still causing concerns.

The Chaves fire was considered ‘dominated’ on Saturday, only to flare up once more as the wind increased; firefighting commander Miguel Fonseca has said the other two fires – in the boroughs of Murça and Vila Pouca de Aguiar – are expected to intensify as temperatures increase: combat of both still has a long way to go; while the Castelo Branco fire was described in last night’s Civil Protection briefing as having advanced at a rate of 2.5 kms/ hour.

In announcing the drop in the country’s fire risk status, interior minister José Luís Carneiro stressed that “very demanding moments” are nonetheless expected “until the end of the summer”: Portugal is parched – however one juggles with fire risk status evaluations, the slightest encouragement could cause a major fire in rural areas. Everyone has to remain ‘on the alert’ and modify behaviours as to reduce every possible risk to the absolute minimum.

“The situation remains very serious indeed”, insisted national firefighting commander André Fernandes last night.

National meteorological institute IPMA has rated more than 80 municipalities this morning at maximum danger of rural fires. The municipalities are in Porto, Vila Real, Bragança, Viseu, Guarda, Coimbra, Leiria, Santarém, Castelo Branco and Portalegre.

Almost all municipalities on the mainland have either maximum, very high or high risk of rural fires.

IPMA has also put Bragança district under yellow warning due to persistent high maximum temperatures until 9 pm this evening.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com