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Forest Fires in Europe

31 July 2004

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Terra 11:25 UTC
30 July 2004

Fires in Southern Europe
Source: MODIS

Fire gains in Portugal’s Algarve, Spanish blaze under control

LISBON (AFP) Jul 30, 2004
A fire which has raged for almost a week in Portugal’s Algarve province gained ground overnight, forcing the evacuation of three villages, but elsewhere in the country and in neighbouring Spain firefighters said they had mastered blazes.

More than 650 firefighters aided by 187 water trucks and several water-dropping aircraft were at the scene of the fire burning in the hills of the Algarve north of the city of Loule, located 250 kilometres (150 miles) south of Lisbon, emergency services said on Friday.

“It is pandemonium,” a firefighter commander told national news agency Lusa from the region, a favorite haunt of foreign visitors.

More than 300 residents of the white-walled villages of Alportel, Cova da Muda and Javali were evacuated from their homes overnight as a wall of flames approached, in some places leaping 30 metres (100 feet) into the air.

Residents scrambled to pack belongings into plastic bags and suitcases as they fled their homes which were lit up in an orange glow by the surrounding flames, television pictures showed.

Several people fainted and had to be removed by ambulances, while a number of homes were destroyed by the flames, local media reported.

The wind-fueled blaze advanced 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) in just seven hours on Thursday and reached built-up areas faster than expected, local officials said.

“We never thought the blaze would reach the proportions which it has,” the mayor of Loule, Seruca Emidio, told cable news channel Sic-Noticias.

The fire in the Algarve started out as two separate blazes on Monday, but joined into one large one two days later and has already destroyed some 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) of forest, pastures and scrubland, according estimates by local officials.

The blaze has caused ash to rain down on the resorts and hotels which dot the Algarve coast, one of Europe’s top tourist destinations, some 50 kilomtres further south.

Nearly 33,000 hectares (81,000 acres) of forest have been destroyed by fire since January in Portugal, according to forest service figures released Thursday, and which do not include the damage done by the Algarve fire.

The amount of burned land is higher than at the same time last year, prompting opposition parties and the media to accuse the government of not having done enough to prevent wildfires.

Across the border in Spain, meanwhile, firefighters said they had gained control of the worst forest blaze to strike the huge southern region of Andalusia since 1991, after it killed two people and forced about 1,000 to flee their homes.

Almost 25,000 hectares (62,500 acres) of forest, scrubland and pasture had been reduced to ash before firefighters mastered the blaze early Friday, three days after it broke out in the province of Huelva, which borders the Algarve.

The blaze forced the evacuation of six villages of Tuesday and caused more than 100 people to seek hospital treatment for smoke inhalation.

At the height of the blaze, some 550 firefighters had been mobilised with the help of 40 aircraft.

Authorities said it was possible that the Huelva fire was started deliberately.

Source: Terra Daily

Fire-weather forecast for Europe

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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)

European Forest Fires Information System (EFFIS)

Portugal Fire Weather Index from 31 July to 2 August 2004
Source: EFFIS

Spain Fire Weather Index from 31 July to 2 August 2004
Source: EFFIS

Europe Fire Weather Index from 31 July to 2 August 2004
Source: EFFIS

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