Portugal – Pedrógão Grande extra

I had thought I had made my last post on the Pedrógão Grande fire that killed 64 people, but it appears not.

I wanted to avoid the aftermath of funerals, tales of burnt out houses, and recriminations about who could and should have done what when.

However, a development yesterday means I need to rejoin the fray.

The IPMA, the Portuguese equivalent of the Meteorological Office, has said it has analysed the data around the time that the fire allegedly stared.

I have no expertise in IPMA capability in Portugal in 2017, so I have to run with what has been reported.

It has been stated that in the period of 5 minutes before the start of the fire and 5 minutes after, there were 10 lightning strikes, but of these only 2 reached the ground.

There were 3 lightning strikes ‘close’ to the start point, but these were 3 hours or more after the blaze started, and the nearest was 7.3km (4.5mls) from the alleged source.

How is this record building up? It seems the fire was first reported to emergency services at 2.43pm, and this is being used as the time of origin. I haven’t a clue as to how the IPMA measures lightning strikes, gains a location for them, or works out whether they were ground strikes or not.

It seems the recriminations have started. It is claimed the emergency services were slow to respond, to both the fire and the resulting injuries. This happens to be the part I particularly wished to avoid, because I have no idea what a reasonable response is. And with 64 dead, this angle is likely to get very sour indeed.

The IPMA says the weather was high temperature, low humidity, extreme dryness, and that for 50 minutes around 7.50pm, the blaze was fanned by high winds.

The IPMA thinks the probability that the source was a lightning strike is very small, though it has not ruled this out entirely. This of course raises the question as to which alternative source might be likely for the 64 deaths.

Portugal – Pedrógão Grande end

The forest fire at Pedrógão Grande was declared to be over yesterday, Saturday 24th July, in mid-afternoon, one week after the blaze started.

There were still isolated areas of flames within the perimeter, but the main body had been extinguished.

There remained 570 firefighters, assisted by 214 vehicles.

The death toll is currently at 64. The number of homes affected by the blaze is estimated at 90.

Already a new problem has arisen. Those returning tell of assaults, thefts and burglaries.

For this reason, the local câmara is controlling access to the zone. Those wishing to enter the area must present themselves to the câmara with identification. Such people are then given a special access card, to show that they have been checked.

The GNR has stepped up its presence by adding 20 horse teams to patrol the area.

I have little idea of what the weather has been like around Pedrógão Grande during the week. Here in Luz a small thunderstorm has just passed over, brining a small amount of rain. According to my weather station log, that is the first rain since 11 May 2017. Then it rained overnight, giving a good watering, whereas today the rain was hardly of note, and evaporated rapidly.

Portugal – Pedrógão Grande #2

Correio da Manhã did a drone flight over one of the worst incidents on the N236 around the Pedrógão Grande forest fire, and from that I noticed something odd. The tree trunks are blackened but intact. The tree tops are fine. It wasn’t the trees that were burning. It was the undergrowth.

This van is typical of what happened to vehicles caught in the fire. The tyres have burned off. There is no glass to be seen. The front section of the bodywork, plastic, has been melted off. The van happens to have struck a tree at a fair speed, causing the bonnet to collapse. The tree is blackened but otherwise unscathed. In the background you can see the trees still have tree tops.

This scene is the clearest I can find of what was going on. Unfortunately, the precise location has not been given, so I can’t run checks on it. However, you can see that it is not the trees in the forest that are burning. The fire is limited to near ground level. I suppose forest fire is the correct term but I had always thought of a forest fire as burning lots of trees. This is more like a brush fire.

The fact that it is burning dry vegetation close to the ground explains why the fire spread so quickly.

Why does this interest me? We don’t have a forest near us now, and we won’t have one when we move. What we do have here is a lot of dense, dry undergrowth which is an obvious fire hazard. I will need to check out the situation when we make our house move, because I would prefer not to be surrounded by such tinder.

Portugal – forest fire at Pedrógão Grande

Portugal has announced 3 days of mourning for the 62 dead, so far, in the forest fire in the Pedrógão Grande region, which broke out on Saturday and continues to blaze at this time.

The photo below comes from the N2 atop the Barragem do Cabril dam, and this gives you an idea of the terrain and the woodland that the firefighters, the bombeiros, are facing.

This dam and river happen to be the junction of Leiria District and Castelo Branco District, why is why photos from the major news sources show bombeiros from both teams.

The grey structure in the background is the modern road, the IC8. Many of the main stream pictures come from the IC8.

The next photo is the Ponte Filipina. It was built around 1607-1610 in order to replace an old wooden Roman structure. It connects Pedrógão Grande to the north with Pedógão Pequeno to the south. It was intended for foot and horse traffic only, and the approach road was built in 1860. When the Cabril Dam and the N2 were built it became redundant and fell into disuse.

The enormous concrete structure behind is one of the supporting pillars of the IC8, as it crosses the valley.

In the next graphic, Pedrógão Grande is marked in red. The squiggle to the right is the river as it approaches the Cabril dam.

Above, to the west is Coimbra, the location of the INML laboratory that carries out forensic testing for the Polícia Judiciária.

Slightly south and to the west is Leiria. While slightly south and to the east is Castelo Branco. These are the two regions trying to fight the fire.

I have included Lisbon, for the simple reason that I know where to point to it on a Portuguese map. Close by, I know we have visited Évora, which I believe is a world heritage site. I think we have visited Estremoz and Elvas, but I would need to check.

The final location you might wish to note is Fátima, just south east of Leiria. Fátima is in an adjacent region of Portugal, called Santarém.

Within Santarém in another place that interests me. It is called Mação. Whether it has anything to do with the former Portuguese colony of Mação in China, I know not at this point.