Portugal is strengthening emergency preparedness to avoid last year´s fatal wildfire tragedy
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Portugal is preparing to avoid repeating last year's fatal fires, as an extreme heat wave is currently affecting the country.
"This year we have arranged the most comprehensive emergency preparednessplan so far: 10,700 men and women around the country, including volunteer firefighters, police and soldiers," said Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita.
From Wednesday, Portugal has been experiencing a heat wave and temperatures above 50 degrees C / 122 F are expected, according to the country's meteorological institute.
Patricia Gaspar, spokesman for the rescue services, says that Portugal is fortifying emergency preparedness especially in their most vulnerable areas.
"This plan allows us to win time in the first attack phase," she says.
In June 2017, 64 people died in forest fires in Portugal. The fires broke out after a heat wave and many of the victims died in their cars when they tried to escape the fire.
Photo Credit: Wildfires in Pedrógão Grande, Portugal, on 18 June 2017.
By 20minutos.es - "Decenas de muertos en un incendio en Portugal" at 20minutos, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60070712
About the June wildfire tragedy in Portugal, 2018 (below by Wikipedia)
The majority of deaths took place in the Pedrógão Grande municipality, when a fire swept across a road filled with evacuees escaping in their cars. Portuguese officials dispatched more than 1,700 firefighters nationwide to combat the blazes and Prime Minister António Costa declared three days of national mourning. Spain, France, Morocco and Italy deployed firefighters and Water Bombers Canadairs to help extinguish the fires. Although most early official reports pointed to a dry thunderstorm as the cause of the tragedy, the President of the Portuguese Firefighters League expressed his conviction the fire was sparked by arsonists.
An intense heat wave preceded the fires, with many areas of Portugal seeing temperatures in excess of 40 °C (104 °F). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_2017_Portugal_wildfiresDuring the night of 17–18 June, a total of 156 fires erupted across the country, particularly in mountainous areas 200 km (120 mi) north-northeast of Lisbon. The fires began in the Pedrógão Grande municipality before spreading dramatically causing a firestorm.
Dry thunderstorms preceded the event and may have ignited some fires: the National Director of the Judiciary Police, Almeida Rodrigues, has stated that the police, along with the National Republican Guard, have since found the tree that started the fire when it was struck by lightning. The forests of Pinhal Interior Norte, where Pedrógão Grande is located, are predominately composed of pine trees and the invasive species, eucalyptus, the latter having surpassed pine as the dominant tree in the country in the last ten years.
At least 66 people died nationwide in the fires the largest loss of life due to wildfires in Portugal's history. At least 204 people were injured including 13 firefighters; five people—four firefighters and one child—were in critical condition. Two firefighters were also reported missing. A total of 44,969 hectares (111,120 acres) of land was burned by the fires as of 20 June. Of this, 29,693 hectares (73,370 acres) was in the Pedrógão Grande area.