1,800 firefighters battle wildfires in central Portugal

Cheryl Sanders
July 23, 2019

Over 1,300 firefighters are battling major wildfires in east Portugal.

As temperatures reached nearly 40 C (104 F) in the afternoon, and a wind blew up, the blaze that had been largely contained overnight rekindled in some areas.

Helicopters and planes have been used to douse three blazes in the mountainous Castelo Branco region, where at least one village was evacuated.

Portugal's Civil Protection Authority said firefighters are being assisted 10 firefighting aircraft as well as hundreds of vehicles.

They were due to arrive later Monday.

Around 30 people have been injured in the blaze which broke out on Saturday amid scorching temperatures, including eight firefighters, according to the interior ministry.

Police said they were investigating what caused the fire amid suspicions it may have been started deliberately.

He said firefighters would adopt techniques overnight to put out the flames, including using four bulldozers provided by the armed forces.

Internal administration minister Eduardo Cabrita said police had opened an investigation into the fires, adding that local authorities considered it unusual that all the blazes had started in a narrow time frame between 2.30pm and 3.30pm local time on Saturday in the same area.

A person who suffered first and second degree burns was taken by helicopter to a hospital in the capital, Lisbon.

In June 2017, a devastating wildfire in the central town of Pedrogao Grande killed 64 people and injured more than 250.

"We are ready for a hard day", Belo Costa, a civil protection official, told reporters early on Sunday.

Predicting a "difficult day" the commander added that during the morning efforts were being made to "maximise the amount of territory covered to prevent the fire from spreading further". Portugal's judiciary police have collected evidence and artifacts that could be related to the fires' origin, an official told Lusa news agency.

The police did not reply to a Reuters request for comment.

The fire is out of control, without resources on the ground, and the population at risk.

Asked by reporters about the complaints, Costa said the mayors were "primarily responsible" for protecting their own municipalities from wildfires through "proper management of their territory".

Castelo Branco remains under a yellow risk alert with temperatures expected to reach 31 C on Sunday, according to the national meteorological agency.

Other reports by iNewsToday