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Returning to paradise for residents and visitors – Gambelas rural fire


Following the rural fire that affected large areas betwewen Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo, Sulformacao interviewed David Thomas President Safe Communities  and Antonia Vignolo, advisor to Safe Communities Portugal on major disaster preparedness

Published By Pedro Lemos, Sulnformacao -15th July 2022

“Antonia Vignolo still has the scene from the day before yesterday very vivid in her memory: «it was frightening – the flames were 10 meters from our house. The Italian, who lives between Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo, was one of the people who evacuated her home in fear of the fire. With the fire under control, these tourist resorts are now trying to become synonymous with paradise for tourists and residents, after the hell of Wednesday, the 13th.

It was close to 9:00 am when Antonia began to get alarmed.

“I smelled the smoke, went to the terrace and saw many black clouds. I saw ash falling and then I got worried”, she says, near her house, in the Quinta da Jacintina area, between Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo.

Antonia Vignolo knows what she’s talking about.

The Italian, who has lived in the Algarve for two and a half years, is a specialist in EP&R of Prepared International (PPI), an experts organization whose main clients are the World Bank, UN agencies, NGOs, Governments, among others and soon decided what to do in this case.

“I saw that we should start preparing, pack our essentials and leave the house: me, my parents and our four dogs and a cat”, she recalls.

And the truth is that, in “half an hour, 45 minutes”, the flames reached Antonia’s house.

“They were there, in front of our house”, she points out.

“We were very afraid because we have tall trees, very tall palm trees, but in the end, we didn’t have any damage to our house”, she says.

Antonia’s father was the only person who stayed at home to be able to “follow the situation”.

“The moment he saw that the flames were going to reach our garden, he went back inside, took a hose and started to water everything, our garden, but also the neighbours’ gardens”, she says.

This measure was, in the words of the young Italian woman, ‘very useful’, as was the removal of ‘the gas cylinders’.

The tranquillity with which Antonia talks reflects the feeling that was experienced yesterday at Quinta do Lago.

After the fear Wednesday, when flames threatened homes, yesterday this tourist resort lived an almost normal day.

Smoke could still be seen – and breathed in – and, in the many areas of pine forest and once lush gardens, there was a trail of destruction, with burned trees and damaged road signs.

The Ludo, Pinheiros Altos and Valverde areas were the most affected. On the roads, fire engines could also be seen, while the noise of the helicopter, attentive to any re-ignition, was a constant.

David Thomas is the president of Safe Communities Portugal an association that engages between the international community and the different security and civil protection forces in the region. He commented that Wednesday was a day of great concern. “Many people contacted us to find out how things were going, where was the fire, how was it spreading, if the fire was close, what should they do”, he tells the report of Sul Informação.

On the Facebook page, Safe Communities has been publishing “several updates” about the fire that have been the subject of «many comments and shares».

In the opinion of David Thomas, the many foreigners residing in the Algarve were “aware” of the danger of fire these days.

“It is important for people to know how to react, to follow the instructions of the authorities and to understand that, in a large fire, it is not possible to have a firefighter at the door of every house”, he says.

After the moments of panic, Antonia Vignolo, who is also a volunteer and adviser at Safe Communities, managed to return home around 9 pm, when the GNR reopened the access.

The memories of a day of panic were left behind, but also a certainty: in the end, the scenario could have been even worse.