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Tuesday pm Monchique fire update - police investigating 'how it started'

FireGoisThe lunchtime update on the Mochique fire revealed that mobile phone coverage was out across several key areas in the hills, electricity has been cut off, either due to damaged lines or at the request of Civil Defence to avoid injury to people from fallen power lines.

There are 40 kilometres of damaged EDP power lines and 17 locations without any power.

Helicopters and airplanes are back in the firefight today, concentrating on two fronts: one at Casais and the other at the Odelouca reservoir area. The fire is being boosted by the wind and has spread into the Silves and Portimão municipalities.

The mayor of Monchique says that "less than ten homes have been consumed by the flames.

NOS confirmed that the fire affected "a mobile site and some of the fixed services," and the company is awaiting authorisation to repair the damage. Vodafone said that "since this morning there are two stations down," due to the power outage that, "could cause service interruptions."

The Minister of Home Affairs said today that the firefighting in Monchique now is being coordinated by his National Commander of Civil Protection, Duarte da Costa. The minister did stress that the work done by the District Commander for Civil Protection, Vítor Vaz Pinto, had been exemplary,

"Commander Vaz Pinto has done a remarkable job, both in terms of technical competence and personal commitment," said Cabrita.

In an otherwise ‘fact-lite’ speech, the minister praised the "remarkable response" from firefighters and emergency service personnel in Monchique and called for "serenity and tranquility."

Questions over the cause of the fire now have been raised with the Attorney General's Office confirming that Faro’s Department of Investigation and Criminal Action will be investigating how the fire started. An official source at the Judicial Police confirmed that officers already are investigating the origins of the blaze whcih started five days ago, has left 30 people injured, one in serious condition and has forced the relocation of more than 250 people into temporary accommodation.

The fire swept through Caldas de Monchique early this morning, leaving homes destroyed, rural businesses eradicated and the countryside charred and blackened.

As for the forestry businesses that have been affected, the Association of Forestry Producers of the Western Algarve (Aspaflobal) has been waiting seven months for the Institute of Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF) to approve a safety project put forward for the forest zone of Perna da Negra, precisely the place where the fire broke out last Friday.

The project provided for the "creation of water points, firebreaks and access roads" to combat any fires in the mountains and was put forward by the association that represents 500 forestry producers in the western Algarve, all of whom are keenly aware that difficulty of access is one of the main problems in the area covered.

Emilio Vidigal, president of Aspaflobal, said that the plan was sent to the ICNF but, "nothing was done" and that it became, "wrapped in bureaucracy."

"The ICNF has long known that this needed to be done urgently but after seven months, two days before these latest fires, the ICNF sent us a set of 30 questions, on the statutes of the association and asked for guarantees that we do not have social security debts.

"The ICNF knows us, knows that for many years we have been doing serious fire prevention and fighting work, but nothing. They only ask us questions about data they already have and that we are repeating in the answers.

“The proof that we do not have debts expires every three months but, as the project is not approved by the ICNF, every three months it asks for a new proof. It's a stupid, endless bureaucratic process. It seems that they make a point of not going forward," said Emilio Vidigal, who said he has told the Secretary of State for Internal Affairs, who reportedly,  “expressed indignation.”

The Ministry of Agriculture today denied the existence of such any fire prevention and control proposal presented by Aspaflobal, stating that only one application was received under the Rural Development Program - PDR 2020, which is being analysed and is "not yet in a position to be approved," despite its critical importance.

However much the Ministry now wriggles, citing technicalities, processes and submissions, one thing is clear: the forest producers submitted a plan that has been shoved up a bureaucratic dead-end, with enbtirely predictable results.

The Minister of Internal Administration joined in the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo, stating that that there is no fire prevention and control plan "pending approval" by the ICNF for the Monchique area, deliberately missing the point that, if anyone in government was taking fire control seriously, such a plan would have been approved in record time and already have been implemented.

Emilio Vidigal commented that, "For more than a year, everyone knows that Monchique was at the top of the list of areas with the greatest risk of forest fires. For more than a year everyone has been aware that the Monchique mountain range was the next to burn."

Meanwhile, at the press conference, Cabrita was given a boost by the presence of the Prime Minister while suggesting that today might be the last day of the fire.

This echoes Jorge Botelho's assertion yesterday lunctime that the fire was 95% conquered, only for flames to sweep through Caldas de Moinchique hours later having reignited on multiple fronts. 

That Monchique fire already has consumed 17,000 hectares of land, much of which somehow had avoided the new laws covering scrub clearance and removing roadside vegetation.

The Prime Minister doesn't want to visit the area, as he would "just get in the way," nor does the country's President, despite being on hoilday in the region.

With leadership like this, and the minister in charge issuing press comments from Lisbon, the thousand plus firefighters continue with a sense of duty to the people, not the government.




Safe Communities Portugal has the following official information for readers:

Monchique fire protection advice from the government:

and download this .pdf file 'Safe Village Safe People - Protecting yourself against rural fires'



+1 #6 Peter Booker 2018-08-08 08:24
As with the recent fiasco at Cacela, this ostrich like position taken up by ICNF on the problems at Monchique proves that it is not fit for purpose.
But that goes for the Agriculture Ministry as well.
+8 #5 Maxwell 2018-08-07 17:57
The announcement that the fire was 95% out yesterday was a classic example, both highly predictable and highly irresponsible, of what has become known as the McCann Imperative. This is the Tourism High Season. Far too many tourists, both Portuguese and foreign, will be cancelling or postponing their holidays whilst waiting for this fire to be finished. Costing Algarve Tourism tens of millions.
So we can expect many more of these "Nothing to worry about" announcements !
+4 #4 dw 2018-08-07 17:31
So the forestry industry shifts blame onto the government, but these days government is effectively a public relations and enforcement division of big business. This sounds like misdirection to confuse the public.
+7 #3 Jack Reacher 2018-08-07 16:08
The prime minister and all the dithering ministers should do the honourable thing and step down. You have showed us your complete incompetence in handling of this frecent fire and the many before. As well as burning down half the Algarve and have it covered in acrid smoke the government is also driven to destroy the sea as well. Enough. Go and find something else to mess..up but outside Portugal. This fire's cause points to something sinister..
+5 #2 Elsa 2018-08-07 15:35
Again exemplary work Ed checking out this background info. but time and again it makes clear that decision making posts in national, regional or local public administration must not be 'given' to anyone politically active. The sole criteria for selection for these critically important jobs should be as in the developed EU - competence, experience and relevant qualifications. Not who you know. Will this review now get bogged down in trivial squabbles over which political party appointed x to his post or who was it that withheld or redirected vital funding?
+8 #1 RCK 2018-08-07 15:23
Assuming this latest update from Ed is largely factually correct, it is difficult not to sigh with indignation and frustration at the most of the content