Once again we have witnessed the devastation that a forest fire can cause here in the Algarve – this time it was all a bit too close for comfort, as the fires at Foia and Monchique last weekend raced uncontrollably close to our friends’ house.
The beautiful regions of Foia, Monchique and Caldas de Monchique all suffered from raging fires at the weekend, causing panic, devastation and destruction in their wake.
The top of Foia is such a majestic and peaceful place, it’s hard to imagine this view ravaged by flames:
Sadly it would also appear that the fires were all started deliberately, which is a terrible thing. The incident is being dealt with by the local police and we have little information other than the fires all appear to have been started deliberately by a 49-year old man from Loulé.
What never fails to amaze us with such incidents is the sheer bravery of the Bombeiros – and the kindness and generosity of local and expat people who come together to support the fire-fighting, so we have put this post together as an information point for both locals and holidaymakers alike.
The Bombeiros are an amazing bunch of people – although we were quite horrified to realise that only 10% of the staff are actually paid staff; and that the remaining 90% are all local volunteers – and when a major series of fires like this break out, there is often insufficient protective gear to go around, and many Bombeiros end up fighting in their normal clothes. Crews are on standby and travel from all over Portugal to assist in an incident of this scale, and the crews work tirelessly and through the night to try to control the flames.
Charities like Operation Florian – a British charity set up by British fire-fighters to save lives overseas by donating reconditioned fire engines and emergency equipment to the world’s poorest regions have even donated equipment and clothing to our firefighters here. More recently, earlier this year South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue donated a huge batch of equipment to the Albufeira Bombeiros worth 150,000€ following the devastating floods in Albufeira – and which the local chief of fire staff described as the ‘biggest donation the fire station has see in 30 years’
The local support for the Bombeiros is rightly justified, and we have been heartened to see how many local people rally round to collect vital items for the Bombeiros – if you want to help, they always need the following items during an emergency:
Bottles of water (no larger than 500ml bottles) energy bars , energy drinks , snacks , and fruit , socks and towels.
You can drop them off at any fire station – however we have discovered an excellent Facebook group (click the picture below to visit their page) that report on the current fires and co-ordinate the collection and distribution of the resources .. and our hats go off to all the volunteers that give up their time and travel around collecting and delivering, and to Debby Burton and her team of helpers from the FB group for organising it all. Other members are also willing to store items for the Bombeiros as they often sadly do not have the storage facilities available to stockpile the necessary items – hence the rapid response by local people when an incident occurs.
(Our special thanks also goes to Justin and Karen Wride who kindly allowed us to use all of the photographs in this article too)
The Portuguese National Authority for Civil Protection also have a website that lists all current fire incidents and gives useful advice to residents and visitors alike – you can click the picture here to visit their site:
Foia and Monchique were a terrible reminder of the fragility of our land here, after such a long dry hot summer it takes so little for a fire to start, with devastating consequences:
We sat on our balcony on Saturday night watching from a distance in horror as the flames spread throughout the area; and with several seats to the fires, and no air support able to fly at night, the flames could be seen from miles away:
At its height, the fires at Foia alone had over 350 firefighters, 100 fire engines and 9 air support tackling the blaze – and sadly that was only one of several fires that were blazing at the same time.
Householders in the area did all they could to help and protect themselves and their properties, continually dousing the land with water all around them to create a dampened perimeter, and packing up in case of evacuation.
Safe Communities Algarve have also created a simple information leaflet on Fire Safety – you can click the image here to view and download it (it’s a great one to leave in a rental property for guests to read too)
And Justin Wride runs his own successful gardening and landscaping company here in the Algarve and has found a way of adding irrigation sprinkler systems onto the roof of a house to be used in the event of a fire emergency – a clever idea! You can click here to visit his website.
Today it would seem thank goodness that all of the fires are now either under control or extinguished, and so far we have luckily heard of no casualties. * The landscape is going to be charred and burnt and will take so long to recover – and for many life may never quite go back to normal again. And sadly there will be more fires in the future to contend with.
To our Bombeiros -we salute you all. And to the volunteers that support them – thank you.
- Update 080916
Sadly the fires reignited on the evening of the 7th September and as we sit here writing this at teatime on the 8th the fires are raging across an enormous swathe of land all the way to Portimao and the autodromo, with clouds of ash and smoke as far away at Vilamoura. Our thoughts and prayers are with all involved – please if you can donate – money – or water/items required – visit the FB page we mentioned above and help in any small way that you can.