04 Dec 18

Fire around the World: Wildfire in Portugal

The fire in Portugal that occurred in last June was the most devastating of the last 50 years in the country. The fire began to spread on Saturday (17) at 3 pm and lasted until Thursday (22). The forest fire hit the region of Pedrógão Grande, in the district of Leiria (Center).

There were more than 60 people dead, 30 of them died charred inside cars on the Figueiró dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pêra road. Eighteen people were hospitalized, four firefighters and one child in serious condition. Three villages were emptied and about 150 people were left homeless.

incêndio em Portugal

The mobilization to fight the fire in Portugal required 1,600 members of the security forces and 495 vehicles to put out the fire. However, on the first day, the cloud of smoke prevented the circulation of aircraft that could contain the flames. The fight had to be by land.

The Portuguese Institute of the Sea and the Atmosphere (IPMA) put on red alert the cities of Lisbon, Santarém, Setúbal and Bragança. This level indicates extreme weather conditions for the fire. The rest of the country was on an orange alert, that is, at moderate risk of a fire. National mourning was also decreed in Portugal for three days.

The cause of the fire was considered natural, due to the dry thunderstorms in the affected region. On Saturday (17) the temperature surpassed 40 degrees in several regions. Experts concluded that the source of the fire may have been natural, caused by a tree struck by lightning.

Dry thunderstorms are rains that evaporate before reaching the ground and are accompanied by lightning strikes that cause sparks to touch the ground. The absence of water and the high winds turned small flames into a large fire. The fire spread rapidly from four outbreaks near the region of Lisbon and Porto.

This type of phenomenon usually occurs in deserts or places where the concentration of atmospheric water vapor is low. The dry air absorbs water in the liquid state and there is a transition from that phase to the gaseous state. Most of the rainfall associated with thunderstorm is absorbed before reaching the ground and forms “ghost” – common in the summer season, in western North America and other arid regions.

After the fire, the Portuguese government developed two working groups to study the creation of safe alternative communication networks, in case the main network fails, and make it more resistant to fire. The intention is for the Ministry of Internal Administration (MAI) to renegotiate with SIRESP (Integrated System of Emergency Networks).

The measure aims to improve the redundancy of the network by going through a satellite alternative. In addition to an amplification of the project of georeferencing of fire engines and the implementation of SIRESP ST, which will allow an exact location of occurrences.


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