A Wake-up Call

What do you do when somebody shouts up at your bedroom window at six-thirty in the morning the word:

‘FOGO!’?

… when you race out of the front gates and are faced with a wall of fire?

You don’t panic, that’s what.  You work.  Either you help to fight the fire with all your might or you drench everything around your house that your hose pipe will reach.

And you pray.  Man, you pray.

(Photographs curtesy of neighbour Leticia Sobral, whose father Illidio allerted us):

Views from Leticia’s house first thing in the morning.

I frantically remove all flammable clutter from the courtyard – mats, furniture, you name it.  I begin to soak the rooves and surrounding parched land until mains water peters out.

More fires taking hold in the trees sparked by jumping flames and flying burning debris

(Photographs curtesy of Martin Vickers):

View from gates as you step out into the road. Next-door neighbour also running and pulling on his trousers at the same time like me.

Fire fighters from further and further afield arrive throughout the morning.

Water pressure is suddenly really high but it’s dirty water.  We must have been connected up to some kind of hydrant.  I recommence soaking the place but it’s so dry and hot it’s almost pointless.  All roads in and out have apparently been closed.

View from our balcony as helicopters work to drag and drop water from the lake up on the hill until they’re called away to the other side of the fire that has reached the next village. After an hour of their absence fire fighters on the ground can no longer contain it and fire comes back with a vengeance.

The car is reluctantly got out and parked outside ready for evacuation.  Over 250 firefighters are now engaged in this, the biggest fire in the country currently listed online.

View from our garden as another fire takes a hold down the bottom of the village. Helicopters return, joined by a foam-squirting helicopter and two amphibious planes bringing water from nearby reservoir. Fire is calmed once again and airborne intervention disappears.

News arrives that another village on the other side is now on fire.  We are now surrounded on three sides.  There is only one side left and wind is threatening to take the worst outbreak that way.  One no longer knows which way to pray for the wind to go.

More black smoke stacks once again signal rapid decline by late afternoon as vortexes throw large burning particles far and wide. Having been classified as ‘Dominated’ the fire now reappears back online on the Portuguese Firefighters website as ‘Reignited’.

And so it went on through the evening until it appeared to have been properly calmed by dusk, just in the nick of time.  Nobody knew if we would be provided with ‘Vigilancia’ throughout the night as things sizzled and smouldered in the woods.

All the men from the village and their tractors with trailors laden with water tanks, hoses and pumps went out driving around the woods until late into the evening.

I slept in just a T shirt with my jeans and shoes next to the bed.  I slept better than I thought I would.  I didn’t wake until 3.45am.  As I opened the window I immediately smelt that the air was cleaner out than in.  As I leant out and looked up I saw stars and my heart jumped for joy.

There were no orange glimmers in the darkness as far as I could see.  A pickup truck with fire-fighting equipment free-wheeled silently down through the village.  I went back to bed with a feeling of relief.  A little trepidation still, but mainly relief.

By the grace of God nobody was hurt and there wasn’t even any house damage.  Just forest.

I’m reticent about putting this last photo on.  But then this whole blog is called Life On Portuguese Soil, hey?:

Also Curtesy of Leticia:

Little boys. Great, aren’t they?!

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This entry was posted in Culture, Forest, Forest fires, house, Life, Portugal, Village. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Wake-up Call

  1. So glad you and everyone else made it through without loss or injury. Except the rabbits, of course. Looks terrifying.

  2. Vivienne says:

    What a scary experience this must have been! But you are fortunate that you live in a community where everyone helps their neighbour. The main thing is that no-one was hurt and no-one lost their home. My admiration goes to the brave bombeiros.

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