Heat signatures (red), burn scars (charcoal to dark green), and smoke (light blue haze) are visible from fires burning in Portugal and Spain in this NOAA-16 image. Rising temperatures on Wednesday helped to spark new fires in Portugal where a total of 1,565 firefighters and 700 soldiers were battling the blazes. The Portuguese wildfires have now claimed fourteen lives and an unknown number of homes. 6 August 2003.
Fire-weather forecast for Europe
Fire Weather Index (FWI) forecast for this week (left) and the predicted FWI total for next month (right) for Europe.
(Source: ECPC Fire Weather Index Forecast)
Warning over forest fires in Great Britain 07 August 2003
Fire chiefs have warned that Scotland could face more forest fires as a result of the current high temperatures. They have issued an appeal to the public to help them avoid a repeat of the devastation which engulfed parts of Europe earlier this month. Scotland suffered several devastating fires earlier this year with parts of the Ardnamurchan peninsula on the west coast alight for more than five days. Another case took about 1,200 members of the Highland brigade nearly two weeks to control an outbreak in Lochaber. Fire chiefs said that the current heat wave has brought a new threat to large areas of Scotland, with dry ground and vegetation ripe for ignition. The public is being urged not to burn anything outdoors in the tinderbox conditions.
Source: BBC News
Forest Fires in Spain and Portugal
07 August 2003
MADRID, Spain (CNN) — The death toll rose to 14 from Portugal’s fierce forest fires Wednesday with rising temperatures helping to spark new blazes while firefighters battled five large uncontrolled fires. “The situation has gotten a little worse,” a worker at the National Fire Coordination Center in Lisbon told CNN. The latest victims were a married couple, in their 40s, who died in a forest fire in the locale of Freixo de Espada a Cinta, in the Braganca district in northern Portugal, said the worker, Patricia Gaspar, of the fire coordination center. But more help has arrived, as three helicopters from Germany landed in Portugal to join the fight Wednesday, adding to the international firefighting aircraft already on loan from Italy and Morocco, Gaspar said. After making good progress against the fires Tuesday, she said the high temperatures on Wednesday were causing new problems and a slightly worse scenario, but that the situation was nonetheless “better than last week, when there were 56 fires burning at the same time.” By Wednesday, the five uncontrolled fires were the main problems. Most were in rough forested terrain, making access difficult. A total of 1,565 firefighers and 700 soldiers were battling the blazes. Another 600 national republican guard officers were patrolling the fire areas to maintain order and help with evacuations where necessary. The uncontrolled fires were listed in Casal Novo of the Castelo Branco district; in the locales of Seia, Sabugal and Vale Nicolau in the Guarda district, and in Vale Sera of the Santarem district. Santarem, about an hour’s drive from Lisbon, was the closest fire to the capital, which itself has not been directly affected by the fires that broke out last week. The latest fires have burned 54,000 hectares (133,000 acres), she said, which is almost as much land burned just since last week as during the entire preceding seven months, since last January, when 80,400 hectares (198,000 acres) had burned, before the latest round of fires. Gaspar confirmed reports that police have arrested several people on suspicion of arson. Authorities have previously said they believed that many of the fires were intentionally set. State-run Lusa news agency reported that one 33 year-old arson suspect had told police he set a fire due to a family dispute. Gaspar said the arrival of three helicopters from Germany resulted from a Portuguese request to the European Union for aid to member countries. On Tuesday, Portugal, in a separate request, asked NATO, for help as well. But a NATO spokesman in Brussels told CNN on Wednesday that Spain, France and Italy — which might normally provide more assistance to fellow-NATO member Portugal — have not been able to help as much due to fires in their own territories. Italy has provided two firefighting aircraft to Portugal, while Spain provided some aircraft last week but later recalled them to fight fires at home. NATO was going to ask other member nations about possibly providing help to Portugal, the spokesman said. In Spain, the fire situation Wednesday was more under control, and “the numerous fires of the past weekend are practically controlled, although there are few others of less intensity,” a Spanish Environment Ministry statement said. In just the first five days of August, the fires in Spain burned 27,000 hectares (66,700 acres). That was almost as much as in the preceding seven months, since last January, when 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) had burned, before the latest round of fires, the ministry statement said. The latest fires did the most damage in western Spain, near the Portuguese border, the ministry said, adding that Spain had made considerable use of its fleet of 56 firefighting aircraft to contain the blazes. No deaths were reported in Spain due to the fires. But the heat wave gripping the nation has killed 12 people. The latest among them were four people in their 80s who succumbed to the heat in southern Spain.
Source: CNN News
06 August 2003
The heat was blamed for the deaths of four more people in Spain on Tuesday and strained power supplies in Italy as the population tried to stay cool. The high temperatures have stoked forest fires from Poland to the Iberian Peninsula, with Portugal’s blazes so extensive they can be seen in satellite pictures. Eleven wildfires raged in Spain’s southwestern region of Extremadura, five of them under control, officials said. Nearly 1,100 people in southwestern and northern Spain have been evacuated because of fires. German firefighters had largely put out blazes in the eastern state of Brandenburg by early Tuesday. However, authorities barred people from entering forests in parts of Brandenburg to lessen the risk of fire. Polish fire crews battled 35 forest blazes Monday and about a quarter of its woodlands were at serious risk of fire, authorities said. The alpine nation of Slovenia was also sweltering, with the capital Ljubljana registering a record 35th day this year of temperatures over 86 Fahrenheit.
Source: CNN News
Fire crews have brought Portugal’s wildfires mostly under control
06 August 2003
LISBON, Portugal — Fire crews have brought Portugal’s worst wildfires in a generation mostly under control — but forecasts of more soaring temperatures have sparked fears of new blazes. Antonio Gualdino, spokesman for the National Fire Coordination Center, told The Associated Press that firefighters and troops were patrolling forests to ensure the blazes were extinguished. Eleven people have been killed in the past 10 days by the fires. “It’s the calmest day so far … but we can’t let our guard down and lose what we’ve gained,” Gualdino said. Some 1,500 firefighters and about 600 vehicles, supported by 700 troops and dozens of aircraft, were on standby, Gualdino said. Strong winds have stoked fires that have destroyed about 54,000 hectares (133,400 acres) of forest, mostly in rural parts of central Portugal, according to the Forest Service. As well, a heat wave has raised temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in many parts of the country, where summer temperatures normally hover around 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit). Portugal asked NATO for planes and helicopters to help fight the fires. “It wasn’t a fire, it was hell. There are no words to describe this,” said Pedro Carvalho, who led about 140 firefighters against an overnight blaze at Degolados, a mountain village about 120 miles northeast of Lisbon, told Reuters. Pointing up a blackened hillside of charred pine and eucalyptus trees, he said flames had covered the slope in 10 minutes. “I’ve seen a lot, but I’ve never seen anything of this size,” the 20-year fire service veteran said as firefighters hosed down smouldering trees. “The men are worn out.” Forest fires have also claimed lives in France and Spain as a heat wave engulfs much of Europe. (French fires)
Source: CNN News
No let-up for Europe heatwave 05 August 2003
Europe is continuing to swelter under a heatwave which has sent temperatures soaring right across the region.
The blistering heat has sparked off a series of forest fires and set new records across the continent.
The Portuguese Government has asked Nato to provide water carrying helicopters and equipment to help hundreds of firefighters still battling to control the blazes in the central and southern parts of the country.
Two more bodies – those of a 62-year-old man and an elderly woman – were found on Tuesday, bringing the total number of dead in Portugal to 11. Smoke in some places is now so thick that planes and helicopters have been unable to fight the flames from the air. The fires are so bad they can be seen in satellite photos.
Temperatures in the country have hit 40C and with no sign of respite until next week at the earliest it is feared they could climb as high as 42C. In neighbouring Spain, temperatures in the southern cities of Seville and Cordoba topped 41C. Three elderly women in the region died from the effects of the heat, bringing the country’s total to 14.
In other parts of Europe:
Five deaths in Germany were blamed on the heat, which topped 40C in some places Mines left behind after the Bosnian war stopped firefighters battling a three-day-old blaze near Mostar Fifty-four of France’s 98 departments have requested state aid for drought-hit farmers Power cuts were imposed in Italy amid soaring demand Polish firefighters battled 35 forest blazes and said there was serious fire risk in about a quarter of the country’s woodlands Amsterdam highs edged towards 30C, prompting zoo officials to spray ostriches with cold water and feed iced fruit to chimpanzees Rail speed restrictions imposed in case tracks buckled in the heat were causing chaos and cancellations for UK rail travellers. There have been similar scenes in France, where this summer has been declared the hottest since World War II. “The current heat is totally exceptional – even for August,” Dominique Escale of France’s national weather service Meteo France, said. In the capital, Paris, residents have been taking to public fountains to cool off or seeking shelter in the shade of the Eiffel Tower. With pollution levels in the city being exacerbated by the searing heat police have been forced to impose stringent traffic speed restrictions. Slovenian temperatures are at their highest for a century and in Germany a record night-time high was registered on Monday.
Portugal fires destroy vast area 05 August 2003
Forest fires are continuing to burn across Portugal, despite the efforts of thousands of firefighters to contain the flames. Nine people have died, and more than 53,000 hectares of land have been destroyed so far in the fires, some of which have been burning for more than a week. The Portuguese Government has declared a national calamity – opening the way to those who have lost property to claim for compensation. The Portuguese firefighters’ association has called on the government to go a step further and declare a national emergency. Strong winds and record high temperatures have fanned the flames, while the dense smoke has limited the use of water-bombing aircraft. Woman is rescued from forest fires. The BBC’s Claire Marshall, in Porto Alegre, says 3,000 firefighters are continuing to do what they can to contain the blazes but many are exhausted. One local villager involved in fighting the blazes told the BBC that no-one had seen fires like this in living memory. Water-carrying planes sent by Italy, Morocco and Spain have dumped hundreds of tonnes of water onto the forests. It seems as if they are helping at least to contain the worst fires, our correspondent adds. “We are facing an exceptional situation,” Prime Minister Jose Durao Barroso said after an emergency Cabinet meeting. “It’s been brought about by absolutely exceptional weather conditions, so we have to respond with exceptional measures.” The government has pledged more than 110m euros ($124m) in aid for people who have lost their jobs and homes, for farmers who have lost crops and livestock and for local councils to rebuild infrastructure. Across the border in Spain, the death toll in the extreme heat rose to seven over the weekend. The victims are thought to have died from the effects of the heat. Temperatures in the southern region of Andalucia have risen above 40C (104F), with some towns recording their highest-ever temperatures. Forest fires have continued to burn in Extremadura, a remote region to the north which borders Portugal.
In other parts of Western Europe:
* Technicians doused the Fessenheim nuclear power station near Strasbourg, France, with cold water to prevent it overheating
* Police in the Ile de France region around Paris lowered speed limits from 50 km/h (30 mph) to 30 km/h because of ozone levels in the capital 65% above levels considered safe for humans
* Rail speed restrictions were imposed in the UK amid fears that tracks might buckle in the heat, as weather officials said midweek temperatures could surpass the country’s record of 37.1C (98.8F).
* This year’s wheat harvest in the Czech Republic, already hit by poor winter weather, was predicted to plummet to 2.7m tonnes – down from nearly 4m tonnes last year.
Despite the severity of the fires, the Portuguese prime minister rejected calls for the government to declare a national emergency, noting that emergency plans were in place in the three districts where the worst of the fires were concentrated. Officials say it is impossible to estimate how many homes have burned down. Portugal has also activated a European Union civil defence mechanism aimed at prompting rapid action by member states to supply manpower and equipment.
Forest fires near Athens 04 August 2003 (AP) On Monday a forest fire in Greece close to the capital Athens destroyed approximately 4.8 hectares forest land. According to authority data the fire which had already approached a populated area could be brought under control with a water helicopter. In the evening firefighters in Nea Makri contained a second fire northeast from Athens. Source: Yahoo Nachrichten
Portugal to declare fire ‘calamity’
04 August 2003 by Alison Roberts In Lisbon
Portugal’s Prime Minister has said his government will formally declare the forest fires raging across the country a public calamity, paving the way for compensation for those who have lost homes and other property. The fires have claimed nine lives in the past few days and destroyed thousands of hectares of forest. Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso made the pledge to declare the fires a public calamity after talking to national fire chiefs on Sunday. The measure is to be approved at an extraordinary cabinet meeting on Monday. But the prime minister again rejected calls for the government to declare a national emergency, noting that emergency plans were in place in the three districts where the worst of the fires were concentrated. Fires are still burning in 15 of the country’s 18 districts and some are still out of control. Officials say it is impossible to estimate how many homes have burned down. With local fire brigades struggling to cope, Portugal has requested help from outside. Two firefighting planes from Italy and five from Morocco came into action on Sunday. Spain, where some of the fires started, also has firefighters helping their Portuguese colleagues. Portugal has also activated a European Union civil defence mechanism aimed at prompting rapid action by member states to supply manpower and equipment
Source: BBC News
Portugal declares fire desaster
04 August 2003
Nine people have been killed in Portugal in the last week as a heatwave continues in Europe from Russia to the Iberian Peninsula to Britain. The heat has killed at least 12 people in Spain and Germany and threatens to break national temperature records in France and Britain. Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso said the declaration of a national disaster, approved by the cabinet on Monday, would make more than 100 million euros ($113 million) available in disaster aid. “The situation the country is facing is exceptional, caused by absolutely exceptional climatic conditions,” he said. “That is why we have to act with exceptional measures.” Durao Barroso said Portugal would also seek disaster relief funding from the European Union. More than 2,300 firefighters, mostly volunteers, were tackling 72 blazes in Portugal, which is about one-third forest. Firefighters in Semideiro, a town of 1,500 people about 100 km (65 miles) northeast of Lisbon, battled to keep flames from a blazing pine forest away from houses. With afternoon temperatures reaching 40 C (104 F), they hoped a southerly wind would hold. “If the wind shifts from the south and changes to the north there could be a tragedy, since many towns are at risk,” firefighter Manuel Policarpo told Reuters. Fires in Spain’s Extremadura region, which borders Portugal, and the province of Avila forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes. In Spain’s southern region of Andalucia, seven people have died from the heatwave since Thursday, a spokeswoman for the regional health service said. Most were elderly. Temperatures in the high 30s C (upper 90s F) caused five deaths in the northern German town of Holzminden over the weekend. Construction work on a soccer stadium in Munich was halted on Monday because engineers feared temperatures reaching 36 C (96.8 F) could cause cracks in the structure. In the eastern state of Brandenburg, about 30 hectares (74 acres) of forest were ablaze 60 km (37 miles) south of Berlin, forcing closure of a national road. In France, a spokeswoman for the state weather office said temperatures this week were expected to near the national record of 44 C (111.2 F) set in 1923. In Britain, temperatures threatened to top the 37.1 C (98.8 F) all-time high. Britain’s rail network slapped speed restrictions on a wide range of lines due to risk of rails buckling and warned of extended journey times. Speed limits were cut to 60 miles per hour (100 km) from the more usual 90 or 120 miles per hour and could go even lower. Some 431 fires were raging in Russia. Heavy rain has tamed blazes that devastated swathes of Siberia and the Russian Far East. Firefighters in Croatia battled fires on the Adriatic islands of Brac, Hvar and Bisevo, where temperatures reached 37 C (98.6 F). Blazes have burned an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 hectares (12,500 to 15,000 acres) of pine forests, olive groves and scrubland in southern Croatia since last week.
Source: BBC News