Minister José Luís Carneiro aboard an Air Force plane overseeing the fires raging in the north and centre today

“Worst conjugation of factors since Pedrógão Grande”

Minister outlines Portugal’s extreme risk of wildfires over coming days

Interior minister José Luís Carneiro has been outlining Portugal’s extreme risk of wildfires over the next few days, stressing the country is facing the “worst conjugation of factors since Pedrógão Grande” – the start of the terrible fire season of 2017 which killed over 100 people and devastated scores of homes and businesses.

Yesterday, Mr Carneiro warned that the country’s firefighting means “are not infinite”. With six major incidents then going in the centre and north, the message was that every single citizen has the responsibility for ‘safe behaviour’.

“Absolutely out of the question are fires of any kind, or working with machinery”, he stressed (see our story on main page). People have to “do everything” to avoid a repeat of 2017’s infernos.

“I want to transmit, underline, reinforce the message that conditions effectively are very demanding – and they will demand a great deal from all of us, to avoid the worst in the coming days. Avoiding the worst means really facing a conjugation of factors which are possibly the worst conjugation of factors we have had since Pedrógão Grande…”

The minister was talking at Lisbon’s Figo Maduro Air Base after having been flown over fires which are ravaging three districts in Carrazeda de Ansiães, in Bragança and in Ourém.

He said temperatures in those districts could reach between 44ºC and 45ºC in the next few days, “with east winds blowing to northwest at more than 60km/ hour, tropical nights and dry thunderstorms”. They are exactly the kind of conditions that prompted the horrors of Pedrógão Grande, in which 66 people died.

The minister acknowledged that the country has “evolved a great deal in terms of competences and technical capacities, in human means and the form human and technological means are organised since Pedrógão Grande”, BUT that doesn’t mean anyone can ‘relax’ in terms of risk taking.

“All the means the State has are already operational today”, he warned. “Means are always finite in face of the scale of variables” currently at play.

As to the situation on the ground, the fire in Bragança district is, in spite of everything, “relatively controlled“, said the minister. The fire in Ourém on the other hand is proving the most demanding “because it is close to residential areas” and poses “a challenging level of complexity”, involving “a very significant number of operational means” (as we write there are over 530 firefighters battling the blaze, backed by 162 appliances and five air support; a fire slightly north also involving over 200 firefighters and sundry appliances and air support, and there are a number of fires further north).

To keep up with the national picture, fogos.pt is a useful, easy-to-grasp website, while the Associação Incendio Florestal/ Forest Fire Alert Facebook page is the absolute ‘horse’s mouth’ for situations, particularly when there are fires in the south. It does not only give up to date information, it also reports on fire stations which need donations of water/ snacks / First Aid and dry clothes during critical incident, when firefighters are working round the clock.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com