Villages Fight Forest Fires in Portugal; europe suffocates

BEMPOSTA, Portugal (AP) — More than 3,000 firefighters battled alongside desperate Portuguese citizens to save their homes from several wildfires that ravaged the European country Thursday, fueled by extreme temperatures and drought conditions linked to climate change.

The central part of the country has been particularly affected by a series of fires this week. In the town of Bemposta, residents used garden hoses to spray their lawns and roofs in hopes of saving them from the raging wall of red flames that was coming through the wooden hills as dusk fell on Wednesday. .

“It started to spread to that side (the right), the wind was blowing towards the mountain,” said Antonio Carmo Pereira, 88, as he pointed to the flames on the outskirts of his town. “I was able to see the view, but for a few minutes I couldn’t see anything, just smoke.

“(It’s) dangerous, yes. It is surrounding all the houses,” she said. “I’m scared, but where can I go? Jump into a water tank? Let me stay here and watch.

More than 800 firefighters were still battling in the Leiria district, where Bemposta is located, on Thursday morning.

Temperatures in the interior of the Atlantic country are forecast to reach 44 C (111 F) during the day, as the mass of hot, dry air blowing in from Africa continues over the western edge of the Iberian Peninsula. In June, 96% of Portugal was classified as being in “extreme” or “severe” drought.

Hot air and parched soil, combined with winds, have created the perfect cocktail of severe fires.

Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa said on Thursday that as temperatures are expected to remain unusually high for the next few days, his government plans to extend the state of alert for forest fires until Sunday. The one-week alert was originally stated to last until Friday. The government temporarily prohibited public access to forests considered to be at special risk, prohibited the use of agricultural machinery and banned fireworks.

Costa said firefighters had to respond to 200 different fires on Wednesday and asked his fellow citizens to be extra careful when out in the field.

“More than ever, it is we who must be extremely careful,” Costa said. “From a small carelessness a great tragedy can be born.”

Some 10,000 hectares (24,700 acres) have been burned this week in Portugal, according to the Civil Protection Agency.

Civil Protection Commander André Fernandes said 135 people, including 70 firefighters, have been injured so far, but there are no confirmed deaths from the fires. Portugal has improved its fire safety since wildfires killed more than 100 people.

The European Union has urged member states to prepare for wildfires this summer as the continent faces yet another extreme weather change that scientists say is being caused by climate change.

Neighboring Spain was still battling a fire sparked by lightning on Monday in the central-western area of ​​Las Hurdes that has consumed some 3,500 hectares (8,600 acres).

Temperatures in many parts of Spain have been topping the 40 C (104 F) mark for several days and are expected to continue to do so well into next week.

In France, two fires raged out of control in the region around Bordeaux in southwestern France for the third day in a row, despite the efforts of 1,000 firefighters and water-dropping planes to contain them.

The fires have destroyed more than 3,850 hectares (9,500 acres) of forest and grassland in the region, the regional emergency said. He said firefighters struggled to contain the fire due to high winds and difficulty accessing the heart of the fires.

More than 6,000 people have been evacuated from camps and villages in recent days.


Joseph Wilson reported from Barcelona, ​​Spain. AP writers Angela Charlton in Paris and Ciarán Giles in Madrid contributed to this report.


Follow all AP stories on climate change issues at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.