Wildfires continue to cause evacuations in Portugal

Above: screen grab from Wall Street Journal video.

(Published at 11:50 a.m. MDT June 19, 2017)

The wildfires in Portugal are continuing to spread, forcing residents to leave their homes. Approximately 1,000 firefighters are battling the fires that have killed at least 62 people, including a firefighter who died in a hospital.

weather forecast for Coimbra, Portugal
The weather forecast for Coimbra, Portugal. Weatherunderground.

Below is an excerpt from a BBC article:

Twelve people survived one of Portugal’s deadliest fires by seeking refuge in a water tank after access to their village was cut off by the blaze.

The residents, including a disabled 95-year-old woman, spent more than six hours in the tank as the fire prevented them from being rescued.

[In the village of Mó Grande] 30 bodies were found inside cars, with another 17 next to the vehicles, on the N-236 road, which leads on to the IC8 motorway. The N-236 was being described as the “road of death” in Portuguese media.

A few kilometres north of Nodeirinho, 11 people died in the village of Pobrais. Local reports said a third of the population had lost their lives, many as they tried to escape the fire. A survivor spoke of the roads being blocked and of no-one coming to their aid.

And from the Business Insider:

Despite government assurances that the first response by the emergency services was swift and adequate, many media and residents questioned the efficiency of the operation and the strategic planning in a country which is used to wooded areas burning every year.

“So what failed this Saturday? Everything, as it has failed for decades,” read a headline in the daily Publico, which blamed a lack of coordination between services in charge of fire prevention and firefighting and poor forestry reserve planning.

map fires wildfires Portugal
The red dots represent wildfire heat detected by a satellite over Portugal June 19, 2017.

Death toll rises to 62 in Portugal wildfire

Above: Photo by Euronews.

(Updated at (9:55 a.m. MDT June 18, 2017)

The number of people killed in the wildfire southeast of Coimbra, Portugal has risen to at least 62, according to the BBC. That number will probably increase as many remain missing and not all affected areas have been reached by authorities. Six firefighters have been seriously injured and two that were reported missing have been found with injuries.

Hundreds of firefighters and 300 pieces of fire apparatus are battling the fire southeast of Coimbra, one of 60 that broke out Saturday. Approximately 1,700 firefighters have been mobilized across Portugal during the recent extremely hot weather which brought temperatures over 100F. Dry thunderstorms are one of the possible causes of the fires. The government reports that 360 soldiers are assisting firefighters.

wildfires southeast of Coimbra, Portugal
Map showing the location of the wildfires southeast of Coimbra, Portugal.

Most of the fatalities occurred while residents were attempting to flee in their cars from the Pedrógão Grande area about 30 miles southeast of Coimbra.

Wildfires southeast of Coimbra, Portugal
Wildfires southeast of Coimbra, Portugal.

The European Commission says it is working with EU member states to respond to the call for assistance issued overnight by Portuguese authorities. The Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, said “Greece will offer any help necessary to fight the fires.” Spain and France are both sending several firefighting aircraft.

Wildfires kill 25 in Portugal

(12:42 a.m. MDT June 18, 2017)

The BBC is reporting that 25 people have been killed in wildfires in central Portugal. Several firefighters are reported to be among about 20 people injured.

Most of the fatalities occurred while attempting to flee in their cars from the Pedrógão Grande area about 30 miles southeast of Coimbra.

From the BBC:

Secretary of State for the Interior Jorge Gomes earlier said that three people died from smoke inhalation and 16 died in their cars on the road linking Figueiró dos Vinhos to Castanheira de Pera.

About 60 forest fires broke out across the country overnight, with 1,700 firefighters working to put them out. The flames spread “with great violence” on four fronts, Mr Gomes said.

Spain has sent two water-bombing planes to help tackle the fires.

Portugal has been experiencing dry thunderstorms and temperatures well above 100F in recent days.

wildfires west of Pedrógão Grande in Portugal
Map showing the location of wildfires west of Pedrógão Grande in Portugal. Click to enlarge.

Wildfires kill three on Portugal’s Madeira Island; fires force thousands to evacuate on the mainland

Above: A Google Earth 3-D map of the Portuguese Island of Madeira, looking northwest.

(UPDATED at 7:25 a.m. MDT August 13, 2016)

The satellite image below from Friday August 12, shows fewer heat sources on Madeira and less smoke from the wildfires.

Madeira fires August 12, 2016
The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite over Madeira on August 12, 2016. Smoke can be seen drifting to the southeast. Click to enlarge.

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(Originally published at 4:42 MDT August 2, 2016)

Wildfires on the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira have taken the lives of three civilians and destroyed over 150 homes while firefighters on the mainland are battling nearly 200 blazes. The fire has reached Madeira’s largest city, Funchal, which has a population of 110,000.

Madeira has no firefighting aircraft. They sometimes borrow CL-215’s, CL-415’s, (both are water-scooping air tankers) and Polish SOKOL helicopters from the Canary Islands 280 miles to the south.

Italy and Morocco have sent a total of three firefighting aircraft across the ocean to help control the fires. Russia has dispatched two Be-200 water-scooping air tankers, which last operated in Portugal in 2006.

Map of fires on Madeira
The red dots on the photo of Madeira represent heat detected by a NASA satellite on August 10, 2016. Smoke can be seen drifting off to the southwest.

Madeira is in the north Atlantic, 530 miles southwest of Portugal. The terrain on the popular tourist island is very steep which no doubt presents a challenging environment for firefighters.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the New York Times:

…The fire caused chaos, panic and despair around Funchal. Portuguese television showed elderly people, many of them barefoot or in wheelchairs, being escorted to safety in the middle of the night by emergency services or neighbors. Residents watched in tears as their homes burned down, and some were seen running around helplessly, trying to cover their faces to minimize smoke inhalation…

The four images in the tweet below are very impressive.

This video, uploaded today, was shot from a cable car as it travelled over areas affected by the fire. It’s a little long at 18 minutes, but if you skip around it gives an overview of some of the effects of the fire.

Wildfires rage in Portugal and Spain; one firefighter killed

From the Daily Mail at 8:29 p.m. MDT August 8, 2016:

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“More than 4,400 firefighters battled hundreds of forest blazes in Portugal as a man admitted causing a huge Spanish wildfire by lighting soiled toilet paper.

The National Civil Protection Authority in Portugal said by late afternoon almost 1,500 vehicles and 32 water-dumping planes were deployed at 702 wildfires, some of which have been burning for days.

Wildfires in Portugal
NASA satellite image showing in red the location of wildfires and smoke produced by the blazes in Portugal at 12:55 UTC August 9, 2016. The image shows most of Portugal and the west coast of Spain.

Meanwhile, after raging for six days, a Spanish wildfire which started when a German lit his spoiled toilet paper was finally brought under control as 500 residents were evacuated and a forest worker was killed.

In Spain, authorities said firefighters had managed to bring a six-day-old forest fire on the Atlantic island of La Palma under control and were allowing evacuated residents to return to their homes.

The regional government for the Canary Islands archipelago said the measure affected 500 residents evacuated a day earlier from the town of Villa de Mazo.

The fire claimed the life of one forest worker and has destroyed more than 4,000 hectares (9,900 acres) of forest on the volcanic island off the northwest coast of Africa.”

Drone video of wildfire in Portugal

This video of a fire in Portugal, shot August 29, 2013, is very impressive, and technically well done. If these devices turn out to be a hazard to firefighting aircraft, our Air Attack planes are going to have to live up to their name and start arming themselves with air-to air missiles.

Here is the description from FlyMoviePRO Portugal on YouTube:

Fire at Figueira do Guincho, concelho de Cascais – Biscai (Portugal), on the 29/08/2013 recorded by a small drone and a gopro.