The Chronicle of a Fire Foretold

Between the 6th August and 16th September the worst fires the Algarve has seen for over 10 years devastated 92% of the Seirra do Monchique Mountains..

The battle against the fire continues till dark and thankfully the wind drops and stops the fire spreading so violently... At dusk the fire has increased to about 16 sq km.

That evening the fire creeps forward slowly and menacingly over every contour of the land ....... It will be a long night for both the Firemen and the inhabitant praying that the wind does not increase. ...What would Saturday bring..

7.30am Saturday 9th August 2003. Day 3.

The temperature is 28o and rising.

The fireman have been fighting the blaze all night and trying to break the ring of fire.

During the night the fire ring extended to 20 sq. km. The Bomberios have managed to control the ring with only a few pockets remaining.

Bulldozers are brought in to carve a barrier down the hillside to form a barrier. Affective only if there is not a strong wind. There are still thousands of smoldering embers behind the line waiting for a chance to extend their menace.........The helicopters continue to patrol the edge of the ring.

The circle is now a good 35 to 40 k. long. Over rough terrain..

 

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At 11.30 a huge smoke cloud was seen coming from the area of the fire and it was assumed that the fire had restarted itself again. I raced to the edge of our hill to find the main command center of the Bomberios and many tired firemen and fire women looking into the distance at a blaze that has started some 25 km. away in Portimao on the coast and had already traveled in the wind some distance along the coast.

..12pm Saturday 9th August 2003.. Its now 12pm. and 39o and the smoke from the coast fire is being blown up in our direction. With it, it brings a strange feeling of foreboding and a strong warm updraft. This coupled with the summer heat and debris in the cloud lead to our fire rekindling at one of the worst points possible to start..

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Straight up in to the eucalyptus... ....the helicopters break from the coast but its too late and the fire is well established in seconds. It races off in to the distance and we all know that this is going to be impossible to stop. We have a Northerly wind we have bone dry eucalyptus and we have the fan of another huge fire ...

The Algarve is looking more like a war zone not a tourist destination...

The fire continues into the hills and in its usual pattern spreads to form a massive circle which by night fall has covered an area of about 300 sq km across rough inpenertrable terrain. During the night it continues to increase in size and we all know that the front is heading towards Casais.

..7.30am Sunday 10th August 2003..

Everyone in the town has had a restless night and at first light we are all at the fire front to see where it is.

The ring is now massive and although it seems inoffective as it pushes down hill we are under no illusions as to the power of the fire front ...

and as the bull-dozer yet again pushes along the front...

the tongue of the fire is inches from more bone dry eucalyptus.

8.30am and the front of the fire has now forced its way into a valley in front of Casais and is consuming all the trees in its path... It is getting bigger and the column of smoke tells of an inferno burning underneath, we are in the lap of the gods as to which way it turn.