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Monchique fire - no end in sight

firehelicopterAs the monster fire nears enters its sixth day, the municipalities of Monchique, Silves and Portimão have been affected, with vehicles, houses and farms destroyed along with 21,000 hectares of forest and farmland.

With an enormous pall of smoke darkening the sky this afternoon and columns of black smoke being pushed skyward by the intense heat, there is little doubt in anyone’s mind that the fire is out of control as it makes its way from Silves to Messines.

The responsibility for extinguishing the fire and preserving life now lies at national level after Internal Affairs Minister, Eduardo Cabrita yesterday gave the job to his National Commander of Civil Protection, Duarte da Costa, based in Lisbon.

More than 1,400 firefighters are trying to stop a fire that changes direction along with the variable wind - their task is close to impossible. 

One tactical error has been to load the water bombing helicopters with water only, omitting to include hugely effective fire retardant foam as "it was not part of the contract.".

The National Civil Protection Authority went all coy about which aircraft actually carried the essential foam and which didn’t. Having been caught out trying to hoodwink the public that all aircraft had foam on board, it later said that the Fire Boss and Canadair aircraft had foam and the front line firefighting helicopters were dropping water only.

The National Civil Protection Authority said Monday, responding to criticism that chemicals were not being used, that, "the planes being used to fight the rural fire in Monchique are loading foam," as per the terms of their contracts but the helicopters were not as this would have “limited their personnel carrying capacity.” This excuse is as weak as they get.

The forest fire specialist, Xavier Viegas, said that using chemicals was essential in preventing fires reigniting after they have been doused.

The Authority stated that "in the contracts signed for the period 2013-2017, the use of these products was not foreseen," confirming Wednesday’s newspaper headlines that foam was not being used and confirming an increasing suspicion that the country is being run by morons.

Xavier Viegas also pointed out how different it would all be, had the 2006 fire prevention plan for the area that now is ablaze, actually been completed and put into action.

With yesterday's revelation that the Association of Forestry Producers of the Western Algarve submitted a plan seven months ago, to create access roads and water storage points, but have been given the bureaucratic run-around by the authorities, (HERE),  the public remains dismayed that the government in reality has talked a lot but achieved little to make the country safer.

The new fire prevention laws, issued and insisted on in the aftermath of the deadly fires in Pedrógão Grande fires last year, have applied only to easy-to-fine householders, leaving forest owners to ignore land clearance requirements with immunity. The spotlight again is on the eucalyptus forest owners but locals guess that nothing will ever be done about this deadly mono-culture, as nothing ever has.

This afternoon, Silves was the worst hit with many cleared areas reigniting. Mayor Rosa Palma said that the fire is very strong and things, unfortunately, are not yet under control.

Monchique Mayor, Rui André, said last night that he surmised that the 40 helicopters contracted by the Protection Civil to combat rural fires were not properly equipped to face this type of fires. (HERE)

The lack of foam fire retardant is an "incredible loss," according to the president of the Firemen's League, Jaime Marta Soares. "In areas of difficult terrain, like Monchique, the use of retardants is mandatory," he states, noting that "water evaporates long before it reaches the ground."

Today, Rui André saw no reason to be optimistic,"I'm very worried. If these zones, in Monchique, but also in Silves and Portimão, are not well monitored, if they are not completely resolved, so that there are no hot spots, we can have some annoying surprises this afternoon, when the wind comes."

The wind did come and by mid-afternoon the view in this part of the Algarve was obscured by dense smoke as the fire continues – with no end in sight.

The Prime Minister commented the last few days prove that prevention was the key to the low number of fires this summer. António Costa said that the Monchique fire was the "exception that proves the rule." Neither the PM or the President have visited the disaster area.

 

FireSmokeMessines

View from Messines- ©Dan Birch 2018

FireSmokeOlhaoEmily

Sunset obscured by smoke - as seen from Olhão - ©Emily Rees 2018

 

Safe Communities Portugal has the following official information for readers:

Monchique fire protection advice from the government:
http://www.safecommunitiesportugal.com/monchique-fire-protection-and-advice-from-government/

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

http://www.safecommunitiesportugal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Safe-Village-Safe-People-Protecting-yourself-against-rural-fires-brochure-English.pdf

Comments  

+3 #5 nogin the the nog 2018-08-09 18:21
hmm.
The prime minister is no were to be seen , Why is this, if his master plan is working so well. The guy would be laughable except for the devastation that lies in his incompetent wake..
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+4 #4 Keziah 2018-08-09 03:46
We are a group of volunteers, have a list of accommodation offered for people in need because of the fires in Monchique area - Algarve.
If you need a safe place to stay or have somewhere to offer to evacuees please go to the facebook group "Evacuations Monchique Wildfire 2018 / Evacuação Incêndio de Monchique 2018"
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0 #3 dw 2018-08-08 23:30
Quoting Ed:
This is the primary objective, everything else is desirable but secondary.

The implication is the politicians are doing the minimum required to keep their jobs.
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+3 #2 Ed 2018-08-08 18:59
Quoting dw:
There is some talk on social media that the government strategy is to ensure no loss of human life, but otherwise do very little.

This is the primary objective, everything else is desirable but secondary.
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+3 #1 dw 2018-08-08 18:42
There is some talk on social media that the government strategy is to ensure no loss of human life, but otherwise do very little.
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