Seven years ago at this time today 14.43 hrs 17th June 2017, the first alert of what became known as “the Pedrógrão Grande complex of fires,” was made, reporting a fire at Escalos Fundeiros e Regadas.

This was one of five major fires, which occurred from 17th to 24th June 2017, causing the death of 66 people, injuring 253 more and devastating extensive areas of the municipalities of Pedrógão Grande, Figueiró dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera, also spreading to the neighbouring municipalities of Sertã, Alvaiázere, Ansião and Penela.

An Independent Technical Commission was created to analyse the events that led to the deaths, and its report with findings was completed and presented to the Assembly of the Republic on Thursday 12th October 2017.

Despite the considerable burned area (about 28,913.6 ha), and the consequent losses in terms of natural, cultural, social and economic values, this fire was marked (and will always be remembered) by the high loss of human lives.

The fire was registered in the afternoon on 17th June and from 18:00 and 21:00hrs the fire expanded widely and with enormous intensity. The firefighters present on the ground, with the wind changes, were placed in the tail of the fire and with enormous difficulty to intervene on their respective flanks. In these three hours the fire consumed almost 8000 ha, destroying almost 60% this area in just one hour from 20.00 hrs to 21.00 hrs. (Centre map)

Many of these families left their homes in the middle of the “fire storm” resulting from the downburst associated with the collapse of the convection column which dramatically changed the fire behavior – witnesses reported a sudden ‘bomb’ of fire spreading tongues of flames and sparks in all directions.

In the escape situation probably there would be little that could be done. Most fatalities occurred between 20.00 hrs and 21.00 hrs, during which more than 4500 ha burned. During this period, and for 10 minutes, the fire developed at an estimated speed of 15 km/hour, a critical situation only liable to defensive measures.  This sudden and extreme event triggered the escape of villagers and overwhelmed those already on the roads.

Extreme weather conditions ended up driving the fire, until 03:00 on the 18th of June, to an uncontrollable situation”.

This was a particularly dark period in our history, but was to be repeated just four months later with the extensive fires to the north of Castelo Branco in which some 40 people died.

The first report into the Pedrógrão Grande fire was completed in just 4 months and the lessons learned, served the basis of many improvements that have been made since then. However, on the ground, much remains to be done since those fateful days.

The aggravating factor is that, in the Pedrógão Grande area, there was a deadly fire unlike any other in living memory, and, as a result of its consequences, there are those who, today, are still waiting for a new house – at least four first homes are yet to be rebuilt – or who continue to seek medical help in the area of ​​mental health, because there are psychological traumas that do not go away and the sound of a fire engine siren heard throughout the mountains makes the population uneasy, once again.

Depopulation, an ageing population, a lack of skilled jobs or forest management, communication failures, dangerous roads and deficient public services are all problems that are common to dozens of municipalities in the interior of Portugal. The need for cohesion in the national territory is constantly reiterated, but in these territories this goal is slow to be achieved.

In tribute to the victims, the Government, local authorities and firefighters are taking part in several initiatives that will take place throughout the day 17th June 2024.

This Monday morning, a round table discussion organised by the Firefighters’ League will be held in Figueiró dos Vinhos to mark the 7th anniversary of the fires in the region. The event will be attended by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Margarida Blasco, and the Minister of Youth, Margarida Balseiro Lopes. In the afternoon, the Government will take part in a meeting with the mayors of the affected municipalities in Pedrógão Grande, followed by a mass in honour of the victims of the fire.

Let us all hope we never experience such a fire again in our lifetime.

We can must all work together to prevent this.




History’s most important weather forecast


Weather forecasts are crucial for various activities in our daily lives, including planning outdoor activities, agricultural operations, transportation, and more. For example, farmers need to know when to plough, sow, and harvest their crops based on weather conditions. Similarly, transportation industries need to be aware of potential storms or adverse weather conditions for safety reasons.

Weather forecasts provide crucial information for emergency management agencies to prepare for and respond to natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods as well as during wartime. With the 80th Anniversary of the D Day landings commemorated on 6th June, this feature focus on the later.

Weather has long played a vital role in human history. Kublai Khan’s attempted conquest of Japan was foiled when his invasion fleet was destroyed by a typhoon. Napoleon’s Grand Armee perished during his ill-fated Russian campaign, laid low by the sweltering heat of summer and the frigid cold of winter. Even at Waterloo, torrential rains turned the battlefield into a quagmire and contributed to his final defeat.

But the weather became even more important during the 20th century thanks to the invention of the airplane, tank, and modern ship. Bombers and other aircraft might be grounded by bad weather or their targets obscured by fog or clouds. Land offensives also depended on accurate predictions of the weather, and at sea convoys bearing vital supplies needed reliable forecasts to deliver their cargoes.

Meteorologists of the 1940s lacked such modern devices as satellite imagery, depending instead on barometers and other traditional, time-honoured tools. Even so, weathermen could make fairly accurate predictions up to 72 hours in advance.

Meteorology, or weather forecasting, is a science that played a seldom-acknowledged role in World War II. Knowing future wind and weather patterns, even if only a few days in advance, allowed for better planning of shipping and airplane routes and for spying and reconnaissance. Fog and rain could be used to conceal tactical movement.

Night of the Strong Wind

The fact that the UK Met Office still had only a very limited understanding of upper air winds, in particular, how narrow the bands of strong winds could be, was brought into tragically sharp focus on the night of 24–25th March 1944. An Allied Bomber stream of 811 aircraft destined for Berlin, which had been forecast to meet winds no stronger than 45-mph, was torn apart when it encountered winds in excess of 120-mph resulting in the loss of 72–Bombers.

Metrological Secrecy played a major part during WWII. In the US to prevent the use of metrological information by the enemy, the Office of Censorship forbade any mention of the weather forecast on the radio. The newspapers were still permitted to print temperature tables and regular bureau forecasts, but radios were completely silent when it came to weather. In the UK so important was the weather to the war effort that all general forecasts were banned.

On the home front, there were other reasons to keep the weather conditions top secret.

Keeping the nation fed was a high priority, so every scrap of land was turned to the till. Food was a precious resource and people lived with rationing.

During the WWII German U-boats menaced supplies coming across the Atlantic on merchant ships, and providing supplies became a weapon of war. For farmers and growers, the weather can mean the difference between having a good harvest and losing a crop. So special weather forecasts were broadcast on the BBC in code, as there were fears the Luftwaffe would target ripening crops.

The D-Day Weather Forecast

However meteorology was to play its greatest role yet, originating from a weather forecast from County Mayo Ireland lighthouse, operated by Ted Sweeny and Maureen Flavin which saved the D-Day invasion,

“Blacksod, Blacksod calling … Here is the weather report for June 3rd, 1944”.

In the history of mankind, few weather forecasts have carried such importance. As he cranked the telephone and delivered his news over a crackly line from Co Mayo’s most westerly point, Irish Coast Guardsman and lighthouse keeper Ted Sweeney had no idea the lives of more than 150,000 Allied troops would hang on his words.

The report convinced General Dwight D Eisenhower to delay the D-Day invasion for 24 hours, potentially averting a military disaster and changing the course of World War II.

The Normandy invasion was originally planned for June 5. Nearly 5,000 ships and over 11,000 aircraft would carry approximately 156,000 troops into battle on the day across a 60-mile beachfront and into the interior of the Cotentin peninsula. Because of the importance of the landings by sea and by air, the 6th and 7th were also pinpointed as possible dates because the moon and tide conditions were then deemed ideal.

According to the memoirs of Scotsman James Stagg, the chief meteorologist for the Normandy Landings, by June 2, the Americans were optimistic for a ‘go’ on June 5, whilst the British were “unmitigatedly pessimistic.” An agreement could not be reached.

Then, in the early morning hours of June 3, Ted Sweeney sent his hourly weather observation report, containing a warning of “a Force 6 wind and a rapidly falling barometer” at Blacksod.

Met Éireann analysis has confirmed that the Sweeney’s June 3 reports from Blacksod indicated a cold front lying halfway across Ireland and moving rapidly south eastwards and that a deep depression lay between Iceland and Scotland. Gale-force winds, low clouds, and heavy showers would still be affecting the English Channel in the early morning hours of June 5.

Group Captain Stagg, stationed at Southwick House outside Portsmouth, studied the Blacksod report and advised General Dwight D Eisenhower to postpone Operation Overlord for 24 hours. Eisenhower’s long-awaited weather clearance had arrived and he gave the order for the invasion to proceed. D-Day would be on June 6.

Maureen and Ted married after the war, but neither knew the role that they had played in D-Day until 1956. In that year the weather station was automated and moved from the lighthouse to Belmullet town and the secret was shared with the couple.

It was announced more publicly in 2004 with the unveiling of a plaque at the lighthouse, and in 2020, Maureen Flavin Sweeney, then 98, received a special US House of Representatives honour for her part in the war. She passed away on 17th December 2023, six months after her 100th birthday.




10 June: Firefighter Rui Rosinha asks the Government and opposition for a serious commitment to cohesion


Pedrógão Grande, Leiria, 10 June 2024 (Lusa) – Firefighter Rui Rosinha, who was seriously injured in the Pedrógão Grande fires in June 2017, today asked the Government and the opposition for a “serious commitment” to cohesion and criticized measures that don’t come off the paper.

“On this Portugal Day, we take advantage of the focus of this celebration to, in the presence of the Government and representatives of the opposition, call for a serious commitment to these low-density territories”, said Rui Rosinha, in Pedrógão Grande, at the military ceremony commemorating Portugal Day. Portugal, Camões and the Portuguese Communities.

Before the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the President of the Assembly of the Republic, José Pedro Aguiar-Branco, the Prime Minister, Luís Montenegro, members of his Government and representatives of opposition parties, Rui Rosinha asked for a “serious and true territorial, social and structural cohesion, and not just paper measures without effective implementation”.

The firefighter was invited by the head of state to speak at the Portugal Day celebrations, this year centered in Pedrógão Grande, Figueiró dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera, the municipalities most affected by the fires of June 2017, which caused 66 deaths and 253 injuries. , in addition to the destruction of homes, businesses and forests.

Rui Rosinha, 46 years old, was the leader of a Castanheira de Pera Volunteer Firefighter vehicle mobilized for these fires and in which four other firefighters followed. One of them – Gonçalo Conceição – died.

In his speech, the firefighter, who belongs to the corporation’s honour roll, recalled the fires, remembering the dead – especially his colleague Gonçalo Conceição – and the injured, to emphasize that the scars “are deep and irreparable”.

“The tragedy exposed many of our vulnerabilities, but it also highlighted our unity and resilience as a nation”, he noted, noting that “the affected region showed the world the strength of Portuguese solidarity”, without forgetting the help from foreign communities.

However, Rui Rosinha, who performed the intervention in a wheelchair, considered that “very little reached the territory”, and “the bureaucracy is heavy and time-consuming”.

“The path to recovery has been quite difficult”, he admitted, arguing that we must “fight for the affected region not only to recover, but to become stronger, with safer infrastructure, more muscular emergency services and environmental and forestry policies that prevent future tragedies, as climate change is a daily reality”.

For the firefighter, “it is essential to invest in sustainable economic activities that guarantee a prosperous and, above all, dignified future for the region’s inhabitants”.

Afterwards, Rui Rosinha pointed out the “structuring problems” faced by those who live, want to settle, invest or do tourism in these municipalities in the north of the Leiria district.

Lack of doctors, little public transport, the “extremely dangerous route” that is Complementary Itinerary 8 in the region, telecommunications failures, limited educational offerings or the absence of jobs are the examples he pointed out.

“Despite all these problems and difficulties that could easily lead us to give up and abandon this region, we continue here, resisting stoically and with great determination to transform this territory, making it more attractive, fair, safe and, above all, cohesive. ”, continued Rui Rosinha.

The firefighter, who defined himself as an optimist, also said he aspires “for a Portugal where all citizens, regardless of their place of residence, can live with dignity, security, hope and without negative discrimination”.

“May all Portuguese people, both those living in Portugal and those in the diaspora, learn from the past, unite in the present and work together for a future where security, prosperity and well-being are a reality for all”, advanced.

For Rui Rosinha, paying homage to the fatal victims of the Pedrógão Grande tragedy involves “continuing to fight for a stronger and more resilient country”.

“May the spirit of solidarity, unity and justice guide us towards a better future for all”, added the firefighter, ending with “Viva Portugal”.








Action Plan for Migration: learn about the main measures


This Monday, the Council of Ministers approved the Action Plan for Migration, which aims to correct the serious problems in the rules for entry into Portugal, resolve the operational incapacity of AIMA and ensure the operability of border control systems. In addition to the entry process, another fundamental axis of the Action Plan involves working on the integration of immigrants, so that this is effective and works.

The plan now approved is based on the principle that Portugal needs and wants to welcome more immigrants – for demographic, social and economic reasons. An immigration that must be regulated and monitored, accompanied by humanist integration.

The Plan is divided into four main areas of action: regulated immigration; attracting foreign talent; human integration that works; institutional reorganization.

In the regulated immigration chapter, emphasis is placed on the review of entry rules, namely the extinction of the Expressions of Interest procedure. But also for the Resolution of Pending Issues and Irregular Situations, which will involve the creation of a mission structure to resolve the more than 400 thousand pending processes.

In terms of fulfilling Portugal’s Commitments with Humanism, it is planned to reinforce the operational framework of the CPLP Mobility Agreement. Inspection on national territory will involve the creation of a multi-force inspection team to combat abuses (human trafficking, illegal immigration, labour exploitation and human rights violations).

With regard to reception, the proposal approved by the Council of Ministers provides for the creation of Municipal/Intermunicipal Emergency Reception Centers for immigrants. It also includes a reinforcement of the supply, coverage and frequency of teaching Portuguese as a Non-Mother Language (PLNM).

Here are the 41 measures approved by the Council of Ministers:


Review of Entry Rules

  • Terminate the Expressions of Interest procedure
  • Strengthen response and processing capacity at Consular Posts
  • Prioritize entry channels for family reunification, young students and qualified professionals

 Resolution of Pending Issues and Irregular Situations

  •  Create Mission Structure to resolve +400 thousand pending processes 

Ensure the IT Border Control System

  • Urgently intervene in existing border control infrastructures, IT systems and databases 
  •  Catch up on the implementation of new border control systems
  •  Mitigate the high levels of congestion and delays experienced at border crossings at Lisbon and Faro airports 

 Fulfill Portugal’s Commitments with Humanism

  • Strengthen the operational framework of the CPLP Mobility Agreement
  • Confirm and execute resettlement and relocation commitments for beneficiaries and applicants for international protection
  • Develop and execute the National Plan for the Implementation of the European Union Migration and Asylum Pact

Effective and Humane Reception and Return

  •  Increase the capacity of Spaces Equivalent to Temporary Installation Centers (EECITs)
  •  Build new Temporary Installation Centers (CIT), ensuring legal and civil society support
  •  Establish procedural speed mechanisms to be applied in judicial appeals processes, in terms of immigration and asylum
  • Ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the return system, unifying these skills across police forces

Inspection in National Territory

  • Create a multi-force inspection team to combat abuses (human trafficking, illegal immigration, labor exploitation and human rights violations)
  •  Audit linguistic assessment processes for obtaining Portuguese nationality


Human Capital Attraction

  • Establish a human capital attraction system aligned with the country’s needs
  • Improve the process of recognizing qualifications and competencies 
  • Promote professional training and training of foreign citizens
  • Carry out a Labor Needs Survey, aligning the supply and demand of foreign workers and their scheduled reception
  •  Promote the attraction and attendance of foreign students in Portuguese Higher Education Institutions 



  • Increase places for asylum seekers and refugees in reception centers
  • Increase the capacity of specialized Residential Units for emergency reception of unaccompanied minors
  • Increase temporary and urgent accommodation capacity for immigrants, refugees and beneficiaries of international protection
  • Promote the professional integration of immigrants into the national labor market
  • Create Municipal/Intermunicipal Emergency Reception Centers for immigrants, in cooperation with Municipalities
  • Implement integration projects in very critical neighborhoods under municipal coordination

Portuguese language

  • Strengthen supply, coverage and frequency of teaching Portuguese as a Non-Mother Language (PLNM)
  • Provide multilingual materials and guidance, including in functional Portuguese

 Public Services Response

  • Simplify the process for granting equivalences in basic education
  • Promote and manage immigrants’ access to the National Health Service

 Mobilization of Private Resources to Finance Integration

  • Create instruments to channel private capital for social investment in immigrant integration projects


 Review the Institutional Architecture of Migration Policies

  • Create the Foreigners and Borders Unit at PSP
  • Restructuring of AIMA’s competencies and internal organization
  • Strengthen AIMA’s human and technological resources, creating an incentive for productivity and performance
  • Transfer the responsibility for face-to-face processing of requests for renewal of residence permits from IRN to AIMA
  • Expansion of the in-person service available for immigrant citizens to request their sectoral identifiers (NIF, NISS, NNU)
  • Restore the Migration Observatory as a State body to inform public policy

Decentralize: Strengthen the Role of Municipalities and Civil Society

  •  Redefine and automate the Council for Migration and Asylum, as an advisory body to the Government
  • Strengthen financial support for immigrant and civil society associations operating in the sector
  • Strengthen financial support for immigrant and civil society associations operating in the sector

Original publication in Portuguese here