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Culprit identified as Aljezur fire extinguished, but personnel remain vigilant

66aljezur fireThe fire that broke out on Friday afternoon in Aljezur and spread to Lagos and Vila do Bispo was announced as having been put out on Sunday, burning more than 2,000 hectares, but personnel will remain on the ground, said a Civil Protection source.

Speaking to the Lusa news agency, the district commander for distress operations stated that the number of operatives will be slowly reduced throughout today, since, despite the high temperatures, the wind “is no longer felt as intensely as the last three days”.

Vítor Vaz Pinto, who announced that the fire had already caused a total area of ??approximately 2,200 hectares to be burned, appealed to the local population to avoid adopting risky behaviour, given the current weather situation which is characterized by very high temperatures throughout this week.

“I would like to appeal to not use forest spaces for picnics, to not light even small fires, and also to avoid the use of agricultural machinery whose handling may cause sparks,” he warned.

At 11:00 today, 378 operatives remained on the ground, supported by 123 vehicles, and two helicopters – one coordinating and one prepared to jump into action if required. Active surveillance, which is expected to continue for the next few days, is being carried out “with forest rangers, firefighters and military personnel from the Armed Forces”, with two platoons already on the ground and two more on the way, said Vítor Vaz Pinto.

Despite quantifying the burnt area in over 2,200 hectares, the official stressed that it is the GNR that had come up with this number and that, at the moment, the main concern is to ensure that there are no reactivation of wildfires.

The forest fire started on Friday afternoon, in Vilarinha, Bordeira parish, in the municipality of Aljezur, spreading to Lagos and Vila do Bispo, and was reported as being “dominated” at 09:10 on Saturday, then extinguished at 7:58 pm on Sunday.

On Saturday, the GNR identified a 44-year-old man as being the one responsible for igniting the fire whilst going about his work with agricultural machinery, and it was him who alerted the authorities that the fire had started. The man was carrying out work using a brushcutter, which overheated after three hours of use, causing sparks to be emitted from the exhaust and, consequently, the fire began.

According to the GNR, although the man tried to extinguish the fire himself using a hose, his effort failed, and thus given the steep slope of the terrain and the weather conditions, the perfect situation was framed for the fire to spread.

The fire forced 35 people to be evacuated from their homes, and caused a mass displacement of illegally-parked caravans. Thankfully no one required the authorities’ assistance in finding a place to stay overnight, despite the fact that the Vila do Bispo City Council had prepared sites for this purpose.