Villages Evacuated As Fresh Wildfires Hit Greece

A picture taken on August 3, 2021 shows a burnt area around Yeniköy Kemerköy thermal Power Plant near Oren, in the holiday region of Mugla, as Turkey struggles against its deadliest wildfires in decades.

 

Scores of firefighters battled to contain two new wildfires in Greece on Monday, as winds fanned the blazes and forced several villages and neighbourhoods to be evacuated.

Both fires erupted not far from the site of devastating wildfires that swept parts of Greece earlier this summer, forcing thousands from their homes and destroying property, wildlife and livestock.

Scientists have warned that extreme weather and fierce fires will become increasingly common due to man-made global warming, and Greece’s prime minister has linked the blazes to climate change.

The first fire broke out in the early hours Monday on southern Evia island, northeast of the capital Athens, and the Greek fire brigade said the blaze was largely contained at noon but had not been brought under control.

Two neighbourhoods were evacuated and several boats were offshore to offer help to contain the fires.

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A second fire broke out Monday in Vilia, some 60 kilometres (37 miles) northwest of Athens, in an area of thick forestland.

Greek police blocked traffic on a nearby highway as winds fanned the blaze, while two villages were evacuated in the area as a preventative measure.

“The battle against the fires continues wherever there is a front,” government spokesman Yiannis Oikonomou said Monday.

“We have already started repairing damage and providing practical support to those affected,” he added.

The civil protection authorities had warned Sunday a “very high risk” of fire for many areas of Greece on Monday.

Since July, wildfires have ravaged the islands of Evia and Rhodes as well as forests to the north and southeast of Athens and parts of the Peloponnese peninsula. Three people have died in the fires.

An earlier fire in Evia burned for more than 10 days, decimating swathes of land, while another blaze that hit Vilia lasted six days was only declared under control on Saturday.

AFP

Portugal Battles Wildfire As Heatwave Persists

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 21, 2019 firefighters monitor the progression of a wildfire at Amendoa in Macao, central Portugal. Rising global temperature, rising sea levels, intensification of extreme events.
PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP

 

Hundreds of Portuguese firefighters on Tuesday struggled to control a blistering blaze that broke out in southern Portugal the day before, forcing the evacuation of around 60 people. 

Portugal is the latest European nation to face extreme weather and fierce fires, which climate scientists warn will become increasingly common due to man-made global warming.

Firefighters managed to control the wildfire that broke out early Monday morning near the Spanish border in the touristic region of Algarve, but the blaze picked up again in the afternoon, spreading across around 3,000 hectares.

“The fire is progressing with intensity,” a local official of the national authority for civil protection told AFP.

One firefighter was sent to hospital after being burned and two others were treated after inhaling smoke, a spokesperson for civil protection told AFP.

An agricultural building perched on a hill surrounded by orchards was engulfed by the flames, according to local reports.

As the flames spread through pine forests towards the coast, authorities closed the motorway that crosses Algarve, which remained cut off on Tuesday.

Faced with scorching temperatures, the government decided on Monday to extend the fire alert in place since Friday by 48 hours.

Spain, Italy, Greece, Algeria and Turkey have all experienced heatwaves and devastating wildfires this summer.

In 2017, fires killed dozens of people in Portugal.

Algeria Combats Wildfires, Mourns Victims

Smoke rises from a wildfire in the forested hills of the Kabylie region, east of the capital Algiers, on August 10, 2021. – At least five people have died in raging wildfires in Algeria as firefighters battle more than 31 blazes amid blistering temperatures and tinder-dry conditions, officials said. (Photo by Ryad KRAMDI / AFP)

 

Blazes raged across northern Algeria on Thursday as the country observed a national day of mourning for dozens of people killed in the latest wildfires to sweep the Mediterranean.

The North African country has been in the grip of devastating fires since Monday that have claimed at least 69 lives — 41 civilians and 28 soldiers.

Soldiers and civilian volunteers have joined firefighters on multiple fronts in the effort to extinguish the blazes that have been fanned by windy and tinder-dry conditions.

In Tizi Ouzou district, the area with the highest casualty toll, an AFP journalist reported entire sectors of forest going up in smoke.

Villagers forced to evacuate in order to escape the flames began trickling back to their homes, overwhelmed by the scale of the damage.

“I have nothing left. My workshop, my car, my flat. Even the tiles were destroyed,” one of them told AFP.

But he said he had “managed to save his family”, while adding that “neighbours died or lost their relatives”.

– ‘Surge of solidarity’ –

Flags were flying at half-mast after President Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared three days of national mourning starting from Thursday.

The Algerian authorities say they suspect widespread arson after so many fires erupted in such a short space of time.

On the fourth day of the wildfires, efforts to overcome the blazes are continuing in many regions where civilians and soldiers often with limited means joined the fight.

Images of trapped villagers, terrified livestock and forested hillsides reduced to blackened stumps have been shared on social media.

Algeria is also chartering two firefighting planes from the European Union, aircraft recently used to combat fires in Greece.

France also announced the arrival in Algeria of two Canadair firefighting planes it has sent.

“They will help the rescue efforts to deal with the terrible fires that Algeria has been facing for several days,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted on Thursday.

Neighbouring Morocco, with whom Algeria has long had strained ties over the Western Sahara, also offered to help by providing two planes.

Faced with the scale of the disaster, pleas for help are multiplying in Algeria and beyond.

“Individuals and associations are mobilising… by organising collections of clothes, foodstuffs, medicines and hygiene products,” said Algeria’s TSA news website, calling it a “surge of solidarity”.

– Heatwave –

High winds fuelled the rapid spread of the flames in tinder-dry conditions created by a heatwave across North Africa and the wider Mediterranean.

The authorities have raised the possibility of criminal behaviour.

Four suspected “arsonists” arrested so far, but their identities or suspected motives have not yet been disclosed.

Armed forces chief Said Chengriha visited soldiers in Tizi Ouzou and Bejaia, another badly affected area. Prime Minister Aimene Benabderrahmane also visited Tizi Ouzou.

Each summer, Algeria endures seasonal wildfires, but rarely anything approaching this year’s disaster.

Meteorologists expect the Maghreb heatwave to continue until the end of the week, with temperatures in Algeria reaching 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).

Across the border in Tunisia, where almost 30 fires have been recorded since Monday, the mercury hit an all-time record of 50.3 Celsius in the central region of Kairouan (centre).

On the northern shores of the Mediterranean, deadly wildfires have been raging in Turkey and Greece for the past two weeks.

In Italy, where firefighters were battling more than 500 blazes overnight, Sicily recorded a temperature of 48.8 degrees Celsius (119.8 Fahrenheit) on Wednesday that is believed to be a new European record.

Five Dead As Wildfires Rage Across Algeria

 

 

 

At least five people have died in raging wildfires in Algeria as firefighters battle more than 31 blazes amid blistering temperatures and tinder-dry conditions, officials said Tuesday.

Photographs posted on social media show huge walls of flame and billowing clouds of smoke towering over villages in the forested hills of the Kabylie region,  east of the capital Algiers.

Algeria is the latest Mediterranean country to be hit by wildfires, after blazes hit Greece, Turkey and Cyprus.

Meteorologists said the temperature would hit 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday, and the country is also struggling with severe water shortages.

Fires were reported in multiple locations in 14 districts, 10 of them around Tizi Ouzou, one of the most populous cities in Kabylie.

Two people died in Ait-Yenni, one in Yakourene, and another near Azazga, forestry officer Youcef Ould Mohamed told the official APS news agency.

Another person died in a fire near Tizi Ouzou, the Ennahar television channel reported.

Major fires were also reported in Jijel, Bejaia, Bouira, Guelma, Khenchela and Setif.

Arson has been blamed for several major fires in recent years.

Last month, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune ordered a bill to stiffen punishments for starting a forest fire, with sentences of up to 30 years in prison — and possible life imprisonment, if the fire results in death.

In July, three people were arrested on suspicion of starting fires that devastated 15 square kilometres (six square miles) of forest in the Aures mountains.

In 2020, nearly 440 square kilometres (170 square miles) of forest were destroyed by fire, and several people were arrested on suspicion of arson.

On Monday, the UN released a major report showing how the threat from global warming is even more acute than previously thought.

It highlighted how scientists are quantifying the extent to which human-induced warming increases the intensity and/or likelihood of a specific extreme weather event, such as a heatwave or a wildfire.

Nepal Hit By Worst Wildfires In Almost A Decade

In this picture taken on March 5, 2021, residents battle a fire in a forest in Baglung, about 275 km west of Kathmandu. PHOTO: Riwaj SHARMA / AFP

 

Nepal is experiencing its worst fire season in almost a decade, officials said Tuesday, as huge blazes rage across the country’s forests, engulfing the Himalayan nation in a shroud of brownish haze.

Air quality in the capital Kathmandu was ranked on Tuesday as the worst in the world, according to monitoring site IQAir, with some international flights delayed as thick smoke blanketed the city.

“The highest number of wildfires have been reported this season since records of such incidents were maintained nine years ago,” the spokesman for Nepal’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority, Uddav Prasad Rijal, told AFP.

Firefighters were working to bring the flames under control, officials said.

More than 2,700 wildfires have been reported in Nepal since November, 14 times higher than in the same period last year, the government said.

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Rijal said the winter season between November and February was drier than usual, increasing the risk. The wildfire season starts in November and lasts until the onset of the monsoon in June.

Farmers were also burning parts of forested land to grow grass to feed their livestock, Rijal added.

In Bara district in southern Nepal, a villager said his home had been “choking in smoke” for a week as fire raged in a local forest.

“It was the worst wildfire I have seen in my life. There has to be a system to control it better,” Bharat Ghale, 60, said.

Climate expert Madhukar Upadhya said it was “inevitable” that there would be more wildfires as Nepal’s winters become drier as a result of climate change.

“Work needs to be done to reduce the risk of fires at community level and they (communities) have to be equipped to mitigate it when a wildfire occurs,” Upadhya told AFP.

Last week, schools were shut for four days after air quality reached hazardous levels.

AFP

Wildfires Devastate US West Coast, At Least Seven Dead

A boat motors by as the Bidwell Bar Bridge is surrounded by fire in Lake Oroville during the Bear fire in Oroville, California on September 9, 2020. – Dangerous dry winds whipped up California’s record-breaking wildfires and ignited new blazes Tuesday, as hundreds were evacuated by helicopter and tens of thousands were plunged into darkness by power outages across the western United States. JOSH EDELSON / AFP

 

Wildfires raged Thursday up and down the US West Coast, whipping through towns in three states and prompting widespread evacuations as officials warn the death toll could shoot up in the coming days.

At least seven people have been confirmed dead in California, Oregon and Washington, but officials say some areas are still impossible to reach, meaning the number is likely to rise.

In Butte County, California, where three people have been killed, firefighters battled the flames through the night, after a day of apocalyptic orange skies over the Golden State.

Five towns were “substantially destroyed” as widespread evacuations took place across Oregon, governor Kate Brown said.

“This could be the greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfire in our state’s history,” she told a press conference.

In Oregon, two deaths were confirmed in the Santiam Canyon region, 60 miles (95 kilometers) south of Portland, and another was recorded in the Ashland area.

Only “smoldering ruins” remained of large parts of the town of Talent, local resident Sandra Spelliscy told AFP.

“There are numerous neighborhoods where there are no structures left standing… dozens of homes (gone) and literally nothing except the skeletons of a chimney or an appliance,” she said.

Emergency officials ordered the evacuation of Estacada — a small, rural city 30 miles southeast of Portland.

Jason Valean, 29, fled his house on foot with his two large dogs and was nervously waiting in the central downtown area for his mother.

“She wanted to keep the dogs in their pen, but I wasn’t going to let her,” he said, adding she had released their pigs in the hope they would have a chance of getting away safely.

Another resident said she was planning to stay despite the evacuation order because she worried about looting, although her husband was leaving with their son and granddaughter.

– ‘We just left everything’ –

California and Washington have been scrambling to contain the rapidly spreading wildfires since the weekend due to unprecedented heat waves followed by intense, dry winds.

Among those killed was a one-year-old boy who perished while his parents suffered severe burns as they attempted to flee an inferno 130 miles east of Seattle.

Three unidentified people were also killed in northern California.

Leanna Mikesler, from Clovis in the state’s center, told AFP she had been forced to flee wildfires before, but it was “10 times harder” during the coronavirus pandemic.

People in the San Francisco area awoke Wednesday to a deep orange sky caused by wildfire smoke that at times blocked out sunlight entirely.

Photos of the eerie scene, particularly of a San Francisco skyline fit for a dystopian science fiction film, spread quickly on social media.

Lauren, a 19-year-old San Francisco resident, told AFP: “We were just like, this is the weirdest day we’ve ever seen so we might as well come out and experience that together.”

Much of the smoke blew down from the north, where the Bear Fire exploded at an unprecedented speed overnight, combining with older blazes to threaten the town of Oroville.

Evacuation warnings were expanded to parts of the town of Paradise, the site of California’s deadliest modern fire which killed 86 people less than two years ago.

At the Creek Fire in central California, exhausted firefighters raced between blazes as thick columns of smoke rose up from the Sierra forest — now closed, along with all 18 of the state’s national forests.

In one home near Shaver Lake, only the scorched remains of a washing machine, outdoor dining table and chairs were left standing beside the ash-coated chassis of a pickup truck.

“It’s scary… we just left everything,” said 68-year-old Sandy Clark, who fled her home for a hotel rather than a crowded shelter due to coronavirus fears.

– ‘We must do more’ –

Tens of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate homes across the region.

In Washington, where the town of Malden was decimated, Governor Jay Inslee described the wildfires as “unprecedented and heartbreaking,” and blamed the ferocity of this year’s fires on climate change.

California Governor Gavin Newsom added: “I quite literally have no patience for climate change deniers… It’s completely inconsistent… with the reality on the ground.”

He tweeted: “We must do more. We need action at EVERY level. CA cannot do this alone. Climate change is REAL. So please — VOTE.”

California has seen more than 2.5 million acres burn this year — an annual record, with nearly four months of fire season still to come.

More than 14,000 firefighters are fighting 28 major wildfires across the country’s most populous state.

AFP

Russia Battles Wildfires In Siberia Amid Record Summer Temperatures

A fire truck drives on a road in the area hit by wildfires in the Lugansk region on July 8, 2020. Aleksey Filippov / AFP
PHOTO USED TO ILLUSTRATE STORY: A fire truck drives on a road in the area hit by wildfires in the Lugansk region on July 8, 2020. Aleksey Filippov / AFP

 

Wildfires raging in Siberia in record summer temperatures have decreased considerably over the past week, Russia’s forest service said Saturday, as it battles blazes by cloud seeding and explosives.

Freakishly warm weather across large swathes of Siberia since January, combined with low soil moisture, have contributed to a resurgence of wildfires that devastated the region last summer, the European Union’s climate monitoring network said this week.

Both the number and intensity of fires in Siberia and parts of Alaska have increased since mid-June, resulting in the highest carbon emissions for the month — 59 million tonnes of CO2 — since records began in 2003, it said.

Russia’s Aerial Forest Protection Service said it was trying to suppress 136 fires over 43,000 hectares (430 square kilometres) as of Saturday.

Firefighters are using explosives to contain the fires and using cloud seeding with silver iodide to encourage rain, it said.

However most of the fires have been deemed too remote and expensive to handle, with over 333,000 hectares currently ablaze in areas where all firefighting efforts have stopped, it said.

This is considerably smaller than a week ago, when the service reported fires over a total of two million hectares.

From mid-June, regions in Russia’s far north, including beyond the Arctic circle, have registered unprecedented heat records.

Russia’s weather service expert Roman Vilfand had said anti-cyclones — which create abnormally clear skies with no clouds or rain — had increased in the northern hemisphere.

In the Arctic, where the sun doesn’t set in the summer, this means that sunlight is heating the Earth’s surface around the clock, increasing risk of fires, he said.

Fresh satellite images showed Saturday that the largest fires are still in Russia’s vast Yakutia region, which is sparsely populated and borders the Arctic Ocean.

The region announced a state of emergency on July 2 due to the wildfires, which the governor of Yakutia said were caused by “dry thunderstorms.”

Greenpeace Russia’s forest programme, which analyses satellite data, said Saturday that a total of 9.26 million hectares — greater than the size of Portugal — have been impacted by wildfires since the beginning of 2020.

The organisation blames Russia’s wildfire crisis on lack of funding of the forest service which now cannot ensure adequate fire prevention.

 

AFP

Firefighters Battle Fierce Wildfires Across California

A building is engulfed in flames at a vineyard during the Kincade fire near Geyserville, California on October 24, 2019.  Josh Edelson / AFP

 

Wildfires raged across California on Friday, destroying homes and forcing evacuations, as over 1,000 firefighters tackled flames in the southern part of the state alone.

Tens of thousands of residents near Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles, fled their homes as the so-called Tick Fire scorched over 4,000 acres (1,618 hectares) and was only ten percent contained by Friday evening.

The blaze forced the shutdown of all schools in the area as well as a major freeway, creating a traffic nightmare for commuters.

New evacuations in the area were ordered early Friday as the fire that began the day before continued to spread, driven by so-called Santa Ana winds gusting up to 65 miles (105 kilometers) per hour.

Some 1,325 firefighters backed by air tankers and helicopters were battling the flames that raced toward densely packed communities and threatened 10,000 structures, officials said.

Six homes were destroyed, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby told a news conference, adding that the number was expected to rise.

At least four other fires have erupted in southern California this week, fueled by high temperatures in the 80s and 90s (above 30 Celsius) and bone dry conditions.

A red flag warning indicating ripe conditions for wildfire was in effect for more than 18 million people in the southern part of the state until Friday evening.

The National Weather Service warned that although wind speeds were set to decrease later Friday, they were expected to pick up again on Sunday and Monday in the southern part of the state.

“It looks like another Santa Ana is coming,” meteorologist Eric Boldt told AFP. “Right now, we’re looking at moderate strength winds (Sunday and Monday).”

Still, he added, the state remains “critically dry” with little humidity, creating an environment ripe for large and dangerous fire growth.

 ‘Story about greed’ 

A number of wildfires are also raging in the northern part of the state. The most serious — the Kincade Fire — broke out late Wednesday in the Sonoma wine region, also prompting evacuations.

The high risk of fires has led to pre-emptive power cuts to thousands of customers and prompted Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency in Sonoma and Los Angeles counties.

Newsom traveled to Sonoma on Friday to survey areas impacted by the Kincade Fire which has grown to around 23,700 acres and was only five percent contained as of Friday evening.

The blaze, which is burning in remote steep terrain, has destroyed nearly 50 structures and forced the evacuation of the entire community of Geyserville and nearby vineyards.

Newsom told reporters the area looked like a “war zone,” with homes and vehicles destroyed.

Residents said they barely had time to gather their belongings as the ferocious fire approached their homes.

“We looked up the hill and couldn’t believe what we saw,” ranch owner Dwight Monson, 68, told the Los Angeles Times, saying the fire moved 14 miles in five hours before destroying four homes and a barn on his property.

The state’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., warned that millions of people in northern and central parts of the state could have their power cut off during the weekend given the high risk of fire.

The company has come under intense scrutiny after it reported Thursday that even though power to nearly 28,000 customers in Sonoma County had been shut down on Wednesday, some of the high-voltage transmission lines were still operating when the fire broke out.

The same type of equipment was responsible for the state’s deadliest wildfire ever — the Camp Fire in 2018 which killed 86 people.

PG&E, which filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, has been blamed for several other fires in the state in recent years.

Newsom hit out at the company on Friday, saying it had put “profits over the people of California for too long.”

The governor said it was “infuriating beyond words” that a state as innovative as California has to see these types of blackouts, adding that the frequency of fires could not only be blamed on climate change.

“It’s about dog eat dog capitalism meeting climate change,” he said, referring to PG&E. “It’s a story about greed and they need to be held accountable.”

Instense fires also erupted over the border in Mexico’s Baja California state, where local civil protection authorities said on Friday that three people had been killed and over 150 homes destroyed.

The director of Civil Protection, Antonio Rosquillas, explained that the municipality of Tecate, bordering the United States, was worst hit.

AFP

Power Cuts Expected As California Wildfires Rage

A building is engulfed in flames at a vineyard during the Kincade fire near Geyserville, California on October 24, 2019.  Josh Edelson / AFP

 

A fast-moving wildfire roared through California wine country early Thursday, prompting evacuations and threatening homes as authorities warned of the imminent danger of more fires across much of the state.

The Kincade fire in a rural area of Sonoma County kicked up Wednesday night, quickly growing from a blaze of a few hundred acres into an uncontained 10,000-acre (4,000-hectare) inferno, California fire and law enforcement officials said.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for the town of Geyserville after the fire crossed a highway and moved towards homes, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said.

“If you’re in Geyserville, leave now,” the sheriff’s office advised, citing an extraordinary threat to life and property.

Winds out of the north were driving the fire south as firefighters worked through the night to evacuate residents and protect structures.

“This fire is moving fast, please pay attention to evacuation orders,” state Senator Mike McGuire said on his Twitter account.

The fire — 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of San Francisco — came amid official warnings that much of northern California and parts of the south were under imminent threat of fires into Friday because of blustery, dry weather.

Power was cut to some 180,000 customers in the northern part of the state Thursday and similar preemptive shutoffs affected thousands of customers further south because of conditions that are ripe for wildfires.

Power companies warned that additional power cuts could be ordered to reduce the risk of accidental fires.

The strong winds in the north were expected to subside Friday but are forecast to pick up again on Sunday, the National Weather Service warned.

In southern California, several wildfires were burning in the Los Angeles area on Thursday, and there was at least one fire near Pendleton, in San Diego County.

A fire in San Bernardino County, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, prompted evacuation orders as it grew to about 100 acres.

The San Bernardino County Fire Department said the blaze had the potential to spread widely.

This week’s fires have erupted as the state is still recovering from deadly wildfires in 2017 and 2018 that killed more than 100 people.

The fires have been fueled by years of drought and dry vegetation as well as high winds.

AFP

Deadliest Wildfires In The United States Since The 1990s

Ventura County wildfires burn in Thousand Oaks, California, on November 9, 2018. The Ventura County Fire Department said the blaze had burned around 8,000 acres (3,237 hectares) and evacuation orders were issued for some 75,000 homes in Ventura County and neighbouring Los Angeles County.
Apu Gomes / AFP

 

Wildfires raging in California are among the deadliest recorded in the United States, with at least 31 people killed in the state as 250,000 flee their homes.

The largest and most destructive of the blazes is the “Camp Fire” in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, which started on November 9 and has claimed 29 lives.

This death toll matches the highest previously recorded for a single wildfire in the United States, when 29 people died fighting a blaze at Griffith Park in Los Angeles County in 1933.

The United States is regularly struck by wildfires in its dry late summer months. Here is a look back at some of the most deadly since the 1990s:

2018: 10 die in two blazes

A fire that starts late July near the city of Redding in northern California rages for six weeks and claims the lives of eight people, three of them firefighters.

Called the “Carr Fire,” it razes more than 1,000 homes, forcing the evacuation of 40,000 people.

The “Mendocino Complex” that starts days later southwest of the city is on August 7 declared to be the largest fire in California’s recorded history. It eventually burns through nearly 460,000 acres (186,000 hectares), according to local authorities, and claims two lives.

2017: 42 dead in California

California is ravaged by around 20 wildfires from early October that go on to claim 42 lives over the month, most of them in wine-producing Sonoma County, just north of San Francisco, where 22 died.

As many as 11,000 firefighters — some from as far away as Australia — are involved in battling the blazes which burn through more than 245,000 acres, force the evacuation of 100,000 people and destroy about 10,000 buildings.

2016: 13 killed in tourist area

A fire breaks out late November in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a popular tourist area straddling the border of southeastern US states Tennessee and North Carolina, and rapidly spreads, pushed by strong winds and tornadoes.

Thirteen people are killed, 12 directly related to the blaze and one of a heart attack while fleeing, authorities say.

2013: 19 firefighters

The rapidly spreading Yarnell Hill fire, which starts in the southwestern state of Arizona late June, claims the lives of 19 firefighters in a single afternoon on June 30 when it explodes into a firestorm.

It is the biggest loss of life among firefighters since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

2003: 22 people die

Over 10 days in October fires tear through parched southern California, destroying towns and killing at least 22 people, most around San Diego and San Bernardino and two across the border in Mexico.

An army of 14,500 firefighters is called in to battle the 17 wildfires that ravage 750,000 acres of land, obliterating around 2,500 houses.

2000: 13 killed as six states burn

Over July and August in 2000, 13 people die as dozens of fires burn in six states — California, Idaho, Florida, Nevada, Montana and Wyoming.

Idaho and Montana are the hardest hit with 1.2 million acres ablaze. Among the dead are two prisoners in a volunteer firefighting squad in Utah.

1994: 20 firemen

Wildfires that burn in the western United States over four weeks from early July 1994 claim the lives of 20 firefighters and ravage hundreds of thousands of acres of land in several states, including California, Montana and Utah.

The heaviest toll is recorded on July 6, when 14 firefighters are killed after being trapped by flames at Glenwood Springs in Colorado.

1991: 25 die, again in California

Over a couple of days in October 1991, 25 people are killed in a wildfire that starts in the hills of California, above the town of Oakland, going on to destroy close to 3,000 buildings.

Portuguese Wildfires Encircle Algarve Resort Town

A man watches the progression of a wildfire close to Monchique, in Algarve, on August 7, 2018. 
Photo: CARLOS COSTA / AFP

 

Hundreds of Portuguese firefighters and soldiers battled ferocious forest fires that threatened to engulf an Algarve resort town on Tuesday as meteorologists warned of “significant winds” to come.

Sweltering temperatures kindled blazes that have whipped across the region as the Europe-wide heatwave sent the mercury above 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) in some areas of Portugal at the weekend.

Fire crews struggled to extinguish wildfires around the mountain town of Monchique of 6,000 inhabitants that have left 30 people injured, one seriously.

Hundreds of residents were forced to leave their homes while British and other tourists were evacuated from a luxury hotel.

Images released by the European Space Agency appear to show the fires are visible from the International Space Station.

Interior minister Eduardo Cabrito said the relief effort was being coordinated at a “national level” which will “allow greater mobilisation of resources” as meteorologists predicted “significant winds in the coming hours”.

However, firefighters criticised the lack of coordination.

Fernando Curto, the president of the National Association of Professional Firefighters told Radio Renasceneca: “I spoke to one of my colleagues who is in the Algarve to fight the fires and he told me that it was totally disorganised. In certain aspects, nobody understands each other.”

Responding to firefighters’ calls to meet the interior minister, Cabrito said: “We do not take stock in the heat of battle. Our priority now is to fight this fire.”

A firefighter tries to extinguish a wildfire close to Monchique, in Algarve, on August 7, 2018. 
Photo: CARLOS COSTA / AFP

‘Extremely aggressive’

Around 250 people were evacuated on Monday evening from villages around Monchique, which is known for its spa and is located in the mountain range of the same name, around 160 kilometres (100 miles) south of Lisbon.

On Sunday night, a group of mainly English guests were evacuated from a five-star resort high in the hills to other hotels in the area.

But Fernando Rosa, the owner of a restaurant in the nearby village of Foia, said he would stay put “otherwise all of this will burn.”

“I work here! It is the restaurant my parents opened 46 years ago, I am not going to let it burn,” he told AFPTV.

Fire crews used planes and helicopters as well as several hundred vehicles Tuesday in a fresh attempt to contain the blazes, which have raged since Friday, stoked by the strong winds.

Lower overnight temperatures and higher air humidity levels could help in the battle against the blaze, which has been “extremely aggressive”, Patricia Gaspar, a civil protection service spokeswoman, told a televised news conference.

The wildfires, which have consumed some 15,000 hectares (76,000 acres) of forest, crept closer to the enclave overnight, leaving behind a blackened path of charred houses and incinerated cars.

“There are several main homes affected. But for the moment we are not yet able to make an assessment,” said Monchique mayor Rui Andre, according to local media.

By Tuesday afternoon the flames were about 500 metres (550 yards) from a fire station and a 17th-century convent. The blaze has also damaged about 40 kilometres (25 miles) of power lines.

Tourists’ favourite

Meanwhile a 76-year-old woman has been sent to hospital in Lisbon for treatment due to the fires, which took hold last week around Monchique at the highest point of the Algarve tourist region.

The difficulty in bringing the fires under control has raised eyebrows after the Portuguese authorities brought in various measures in a bid to avoid a repetition of fires that killed at least 114 people last year.

Despite significant resources, the fire continues to “destroy homes” and threaten an “urban perimeter,” the National Association of Professional Firefighters and the Union of Professional Firefighters said in a joint statement.

AFP

Portugal Interior Minister Resigns After Wildfires Kill Over 100 People

 

Portugal’s Interior Minister Constanca Urbano de Sousa resigned Wednesday as criticism mounts over the government’s handling of a series of deadly forest fires that killed more than 100 people in four months.

Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa accepted her resignation, his office said.

On Sunday, a series of deadly wildfires broke out in the centre and north of the country which killed 41 people and injured another 71, the civil protection agency said.

Similar huge blazes in June killed 64 people and injured 250 near the central Pedrogao Grande region, in what were the deadliest wildfires in the country’s history.

As the toll mounted on Monday, a small rightwing party had called for the minister to step down. Costa initially resisted the demand but by Wednesday appeared to have backed down.

After the tragedy in June, the government came under mounting criticism for failing to develop a coherent strategy to fight forest fires, which has further sharpened over its inability to prevent another devastating disaster this weekend.

On Tuesday evening, hundreds gathered in Lisbon under the pouring rain to demonstrate their anger over the government’s failings, shouting “Shame!” and “Resign!” in a protest organised through Facebook.

“A hundred people are dead and nobody is taking responsibility… We need answers!” one demonstrator said on national television.

On Monday, Costa reaffirmed his pledge to prevent new tragedies by carrying out “fundamental reforms” in forest management and firefighting.

But a day later, conservative President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa called on the socialist government to “bear all the consequences of this tragedy”.

The CDS-PP, which had called for the minister’s resignation, has tabled a motion of no confidence in the government over its failure to prevent the fires, but it looks set to be easily overcome by the Socialist majority.

No date has been set for the vote.

“The Assembly needs to clarify whether or not it wishes to keep the government in place,” he said, noting that if the motion failed, the government would have a more solid base from which to carry out the necessary reforms.

Portugal on Tuesday began three days of national mourning for the victims.

AFP