Portugal forest fires finally under control

Portugal forest fires finally under control

Portugal forest fires finally under control The main forest fires raging in Portugal since the weekend, which have killed more than 60 people, were brought under control yesterday, the civil protection agency said.

The giant blaze broke out initially at Pedrogao Grande and spread to adjacent areas including Gois, Pampilhosa da Serra and Arganil.

The fire in Pedrogao Grande, which ravaged 30,000 hectares of forests, was doused only late on June 21.

The blaze in Gois, the second biggest after Pedrogao Grande, was brought “under control” on Thursday, said Carlos Tavares, the civil protection official leading the operations, though he cautioned that some fires could resume. Tavares said the fire in Gois had affected 20,000 hectares. The firefighting effort involves nearly 2,400 firemen and water-bombing planes.

Press reports have suggested that Portugal’s fire plan had not been revised for four years and that the intense heat might have made some communication antennae malfunction. The president of the League of Firefighters, Jaime Marta Soares, said Wednesday that he believed arson had caused the fire, contradicting an earlier account by police.

On June 18, police chief Almeida Rodrigues had ruled out arson, blaming dry thunderstorms for the blaze after saying they had found a tree hit by lightning. But Marta Soares told local news media the fire had already been burning for two hours before the storm started on June 17.