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‘Extraordinarily large, extraordinarily complex’ Central Portugal blaze under control, but firefighters on alert

89central fireMore than 850 firefighters brought a huge wildfire sweeping across part of central Portugal under control on Monday as the country entered a state of alert due to the high risk of further localised COVID-19 outbreaks.

The wildfire had raged in the municipality of Oleiros over the weekend, since Saturday, and spread to two neighbouring municipalities on Sunday.

It forced evacuations and several houses were at risk as the fire raged near isolated villages. There were no immediate estimates of property damage.

A 21-year-old firefighter died in a road accident on Saturday while fighting the fire in Castelo Branco and seven people were injured, including one civilian.

Luis Belo Costa, a fire commander from Castelo Branco, said the wildfire was brought under control at around 8 a.m. this morning but said there was still “a lot of work ahead”.

“It is normal some reactivations might happen over the next few hours,” Belo Costa said, explaining firefighters would remain on the ground as strong winds and high temperatures were expected throughout the day.

The risk of fire is high across most of the country on Monday, according to the meteorology agency IPMA, with temperatures reaching 37 degrees Celsius (99F) across the southern regions of Portugal.

The government issued a state of alert for the whole country for Monday and Tuesday, raising the readiness levels of firefighters, police and emergency medical services.

There is currently a ban on lighting fires throughout Portugal, and access to forests will be limited.

Fire commander Belo Costa estimated the wildfire in Castelo Branco may have burned around 6,000 hectares of forest, but said he was awaiting confirmation.