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Sintra fire - 600 hectares of UNESCO heritage area goes up in smoke

fireUp to 600 firefighters battled a huge fire in the Sintra area which started near the Convento da Peninha late on Saturday evening.

Locals were evacuated from five villages as wind whipped the fire into a fast-moving blaze, tearing across the countryside and destroying 600 hectares of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, a UNESCO heritage site.

Aircraft were water-bombing the area at first light on Sunday as one of the two fronts headed towards the exclusive Cascais area.

By early afternoon, the fire was under control and teams stood by to sort out and re-ignitions.

In May this year, European Union fire experts submitted a report highlighting the fire risks in the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park and suggested various prevention measures.

The report was handed to the Government after experts visited the protected area and expressed concern that it was highly vulnerable to fire.

"The structural risk index is very high and extreme," says the report signed by three experts from Spain who worked with Portuguese experts, including those from the Institute of Nature Conservation and Forests.

After the visit, experts then warned of the vulnerability of the area and the danger posed to isolated houses, among other risks.

In the event of a disaster, "Evacuations are compromised because they require two conditions that do not exist, time and resources - to which can be added another limitation, the width of the roads compared to the number of existing vehicles," read the study.

The document was handed over to the Secretary of State for Forestry, who met with its authors, as well as the presidents of the Nature Conservation Institute, Parques de Sintra Monte da Lua S.A and the new chap responsible for the structure of Portugal’s firefighting services, Tiago Oliveira, who has stated that "the problems of the fires of 2017 will not be repeated."

It appears that none of the report recommendations have been applied in time to halt or better control this weekend’s fire which has all the hallmarks of having been set deliberately.

________

In 1966, 25 soldiers were killed battling a forest fire in the forest of Sintra.

A report describes the event:

"This was the worst fire the mountains of Sintra have ever seen, 50 square kilometres of burned area, and the most diffused by the mass media, at a time when TV was still black and white but Sintra was very close to Lisbon. Much of the beauty of the mountains was lost, it became a black horizon. The vegetation was considerably damaged. In spite of all these harmful consequences, the scale of this fire was due in great part to the loss of 25 lives, soldiers from the Antiaerial Artillery Regiment from Queluz, who on the night of 7th September were fighting the fire at Alto do Monge, and when the fire was at its peak there were surrounded by flames and died in the fire."

Comments  

+3 #2 James of Monchique 2018-10-08 20:08
I agree with Jack. Living near Monchique there have been several cases recently of arsonists caught and then released. Unless these people are given proper punishment then fires will continue to devestate our countryside. Enough is enough.
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-6 #1 Jack Reacher 2018-10-08 15:07
EU fire experts and their waffle report would do well to keep their opinions to themselves. Portugal wouldn't have a fire problem if arsonists were actually caught and handed life imprisonment.
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