In August 2012, when Jon and I were staying at the house for our holiday, large parts of Portugal were ablaze.
There were dozens of major forest fires across the whole of Portugal. Hundreds of thousands of acres were left charred, people died trying to protect their land and nearly a thousand of the bombeiros (fire fighters) were out day and night tackling the blazes. The fires were so bad that water and planes from Spain was brought in to assist. And don’t forget that the bombeiros are all volunteers (see: Final coat finished!).
There were fires at the Caramulo Mountains (Serra do Caramulo), which is not too far from the house, and for four days straight we had four planes and a helicopter carrying water relaying from one side of the horizon to the other. For days we could see several plumes of smoke and ash was falling on the house. ASH was falling on the house! It was like a scene from an apocalypse movie. We were swimming in the pool and it seemed to be raining but when it touched our skin it would smear black. The fires were miles away but we were seriously considering whether we should jump ship and get a plane back to England. At one point we actually loaded the car and had it facing the gate so we could make a quick exit.
On the last day of our holiday the fires spread to the Estrela Mountains (Serra da Estrela), which was the mountain range that we could see from the house. We had gone out for dinner and came home late at night to ash falling again and a red scar on the horizon. See the photo on the right. It’s one thing sitting in front of the TV and watching the fires but it’s another thing watching them from your back garden. It was pretty spooky watching it chew through the forest and move across the horizon. In the morning the fire had gone out but there was a grey mark on the land. We got on our plane and when my parents came over to visit the house next it was still standing – phew.
If you’re in Portugal and there are fires going on then you can get more information about them from this website: Forest Fire Information (link provided by our friends at Property for Sale in Central Portugal).