Multiple fires across Portugal due to heatwave

Written By Lara Silva

According to the Civil Protection website, as of 9:12 am local time on July 13, there are 272 active fires all over mainland Portugal. Most of the country has been labeled with a high risk of fire alert on Wednesday.

Central Portugal and the north, as well as parts of the south of Portugal, are at even greater risk of fire. 

The heat wave is a leading cause of the fires spreading all over Portugal, particularly rural fires. The highest temperatures are expected in Santarem where temperatures could reach almost 47ºC.

The extreme temperatures are set to remain until the weekend and specialists warn this heat wave could be one of the most intense in the last decades. 

While high temperatures are normal during Portuguese summers, these temperatures are 5ºC to 10ºC higher than the average summer.  

According to the Washington Post, the European Commission said on Monday that it had “mobilized its firefighting fleet to help Portugal fight destructive forest fires”. Many residents have had to evacuate their homes.

On Sunday, there were more than 3,000 firefighters around the country working to put out fires. 

A nationwide state of emergency has been declared. This means that people are not allowed in forest areas deemed high risk and that farmers are not allowed to use machinery that could ignite a fire.

In 2017, the BBC reported that the common “wildfire season” in Portugal would be extended from two to five months due to climate change. That same year, hundreds of people died in the wildfire season, leading to criticisms of the government’s response. 

Along with the lack of equipment, criticisms arose about the lack of management of forests. Portugal is one of the most forested countries in the whole of Europe, but 85% is privately owned. Many of these rural plots have been neglected as people move to the city, leading to fires. 

The National Maritime Authority has announced important recommendations for beach goers: hydration, sunscreen, and avoiding direct sun exposure, particularly between 11 am and 5 pm.

Light meals and loose clothes are also recommended, as well as wide hats and sunglasses. The authority also said that physical activity should be avoided at all costs including indoor and outdoor sports.

In June, 96% of Portugal was classified as being in extreme or severe drought.

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