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 Sierra do Monchique Mountains..

..7.30am Sunday 10th August 2003..

As Casais waits the wind picks up and the fire takes on another side almost animal like as it roars though the forest. I begin to feel the hairs on my neck stand up as the fire races over the hill and we hear the crackle of burning wood and shrub. The helicopters try to keep it from expanding but as the wind picks up so does the fire and by 10.25 its obvious that the fire is getting out of control, the first of the water bombers arrives...

It is now a game of survival and good fortune as all of us realize that the front is so huge that it is impossible to extinguish...Its moving fast to the West and as it rolls and bellows...

...There is a renewed faith in the arrival of the bombers who continue to circle for one hour but then at 11.20am. they disappear. Silence No planes no helicopters only the whoosh of burning leaves and the crackle of wood bark!

Five minutes later the helicopters are back and we in the village all look at one another to ask where are the planes? Its not that we don't admire the abilities of the helicopter pilots but now at this vital time its a question of how much water you can get on to the fire to stop it reaching the road ....

My grandfathers phrase of 'pissing on a bonfire' comes to mind as I watch the efforts of the dedicated Bomberos fight a loosing battle..

To next part of story

..11.35am Sunday 10th August 2003..

... as the wind increases we all know it will be to the West of the village and as the fire came up the valley it forms a huge fire ball which is creating its own climate in front of its path and from which there will be no way of stopping it reaching the tree rich mountain top far beyond.

I was 10 meters away from the fire ball that went through the town and I would like to dedicate the next few images to all those who watched this devastating fire ball shoot past at 40/50 km. and who still stayed to fight this animal.

piture used on John Pearson;s album

I realised as I watched the people evacuate and leave the lonely fire engine that it was damage limitation and that the fire could not be stopped.... Our peace was shattered at 11.40 as the fire broke the road and within seconds had consumed thousands of animals, insects and trees as it raced unchecked into the mountain...