On the 3rd August 2018, the first of three fires took hold in what was to be a week of wildfires tearing through the mountains of the Serra de Monchique region of the Western Algarve. This resulted in 27,000 hectares of damage and devastation impacting the lives of the local Portuguese and expats living in the area. Here are some of the first-hand accounts of how people were affected, the lessons learned and insights into how to stay safe and prevent fires in the future.
Click on the podcasts below to hear their stories.
Tim and Penny – October 2018
Using their savings to buy a house and retire to Portugal, Tim settled in Alferce 7 years ago and Penny followed shortly after. They were aware of the risk of fires in the region but never imagined they would be caught up in one of the worst wild fires the Serra de Monchique has experienced. This is their account of what happened to them.
Paul – November 2018
A resident for over 20 years, Paul has renovated a variety of properties but Foz de Vale holds a special place in his heart. He set about restoring the hamlet from ruins to the four houses that occupy the land today and where Paul has lived for five years. He decided to place the property on the market a few months before the fires making his experience all the more tense at the possible consequences. Meeting Paul three months after the events in August he describes how the land is looking and shares his experience on the day he fled not knowing what he would return to.
Emily – December 2018 and February 2019
Emily and her partner left England looking to buy a plot of land and settle into a healthy way of life, they chose Monchique. Opting for the Perna de Negra valley they built a small house and a guest house. They lost everything in the fire.
We catch up first in Monchique where Emily is staying with friends and again a couple of months later on her land to see how the rebuild is going.
Robert – March 2019
Robert already has an extraordinary story to share after taking 3 years to walk with his herd of donkeys from Andalusia to the Serra de Monchique region. Searching for clean air and a healthy environment he found a place for him and his donkeys to live near Picota. Thankful to the local community for their help, he worked on the land and adapted the basic living conditions and began his donkey walks in nature for the public. Robert and his friend Claudia share what happened the night they found themselves evacuating the mountain with donkeys, Cameron & Lucia, Josefina and the two youngest, Frederico & Luisa.
John – April 2019
John and his family, moved from South Africa 19 years ago and moved to their property near Foia six years ago. At 790m there are amazing views and for a large part of the year plenty of water. But not in the summer months. John shares his tips and insights into how to prevent, put out and minimise the risk of a property being burnt out.
One question on many people’s mind when faced with the possibility of fire is, do we stay and protect our properties or do we go? John shares his thoughts.
Peter – September 2019
Peter and Suku Weaver live high up on Picota’s north facing slope, near to Casa Jaede. Unlike many living in the area, they prepared their 2.8 hectare site in advance clearing the land and making sure safety measures were in place in case of a fire.
On the Sunday afternoon of the 5th Aug, the fire was closing in on them fast and they were hit by a firestorm. They remained on- site with no electricity and a diminishing water supply fighting fires with what they had until the following Saturday evening when a passing Portuguese Army squad stopped and helped them extinguish the last of the many post firestorm ignitions.
Peter documented their experiences as the events unfolded whilst sending out information as and when he could to people in the wider community and authorities where possible. As a result of lessons learned, thorough research and a certain amount of financial investment, their site is now even better prepared for any future fires.