Huge forest fires in Portugal
June 18, 2017 3:12 AM   Subscribe

 
Good god, that is terrifying.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:56 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Awful news. Those poor people.
posted by Catseye at 6:07 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


62 now. This is terrible.

It seems confirmed it is a firestorm started by dry lightening and changing winds. Some reports on Twitter about fronts moving at speeds of 30km/h. The area looking cladded in eucalyptus doesn't help.
posted by lmfsilva at 6:12 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


I feel like I have been seeing news reports about large fires in Spain and Portugal on and off for years now. Am I correct in assuming that it is somewhat like Southern California, in that there is a natural fire ecology that people have built into over many years, but with increased risk now from hotter summers?

The loss of life is tragic, and it sounds like a really awful situation?
posted by Dip Flash at 6:19 AM on June 18 [4 favorites]


This is so awful. Have they asked for aid? Can we send firefighters or equipment?
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 6:57 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


The loss of life is tragic, and it sounds like a really awful situation?

I have absolutely no idea how I ended up with a question mark there, which makes the sentence all weird.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:12 AM on June 18 [3 favorites]


many .s
posted by lalochezia at 7:25 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


:(
posted by Yowser at 7:34 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


As if there weren't enough problems caused just by other human beings, now nature has to throw shit at people. :(

Looks like both Spain and France are sending firefighting planes.
posted by JanetLand at 7:45 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


The EU civil protection emergency mechanism has also been activated.

(also, the area looks to have Eucalyptus, but mostly pine trees... which isn't that much of an improvement over fire prevention).
posted by lmfsilva at 7:48 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


(also, the area looks to have Eucalyptus, but mostly pine trees... which isn't that much of an improvement over fire prevention).

Must've been more than 20 years since I heard that non-composite wine corks were getting almost impossible to come by because Portugal was replacing its stands of cork oak with faster-growing, more profitable, but also much more flammable Eucalyptus.
posted by jamjam at 8:26 AM on June 18 [3 favorites]


I feel like I have been seeing news reports about large fires in Spain and Portugal on and off for years now. Am I correct in assuming that it is somewhat like Southern California, in that there is a natural fire ecology that people have built into over many years, but with increased risk now from hotter summers?

Most of the peninsula is rather dry with continental or mediterranean climate, and we've been having a lot of hot, dry weather lately (between 35º and 40º Celsius) so this is a tinderbox.
posted by sukeban at 9:11 AM on June 18 [5 favorites]


BBC Worldservice audio clip of Australian journalist Caleb Cluff, holidaying in Portugal, gives an eye-witness account of the fires. Being Australian, he mentions the "densely-planted eucalyptus plantations".

.
posted by Mister Bijou at 9:42 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Forest Fires are a long term environmental issue in the Mediterranean area. France, Portugal and Spain experienced severe wild fires in 2016.

The statement above on largest wildland, brush and forest fires is incomplete and misleading. There have been several forest fires in the US that each burned more than one million acres. The number of lives lost in nineteenth century fires remains uncertain. The largest aggregation of forest fires in one year to date is the Siberian forest fires of 2003 which resulted in about 47 million acres of land burned.
posted by X4ster at 10:50 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


(also, the area looks to have Eucalyptus, but mostly pine trees... which isn't that much of an improvement over fire prevention).

Believe it or not, pine is a massive improvement over eucalyptus. Everything about eucalypts is extremely flammable: They create a lot of loose leaf litter that never breaks down because the flammable oil it's permeated with is also a powerful antifungal. That all just keeps piling up. They also have bark that peels off annually, which, ditto. On top of all that, they are highly invasive, spreading quickly both by seed and by cloning, forming dense groves that shade out all other vegetation -- not that any other vegetation could grow anyway with all that poisonous litter everywhere. Oh, and they suck every drop of water out of the ground, keeping all that accumulated kindling bone dry. The 1991 Oakland Hills firestorm in California was mostly fueled by invasive blue gum, a giant eucalypt that dominates absolutely everything else.

For a few reasons (18th century exoticism, 19th century scramble to control soil erosion, 20th century forestry), "blue gums are the most abundant tree in Portugal." Ruh-roh.

A stand of eucalyptus might as well be a stand of open gas wells. Anyone who would knowingly plant it within 500 miles of a residential area (or vice-versa) should be locked up forever, even before it inevitably kills anyone. All eucalypts outside Australia should be completely banned, eradicated, and replaced with native trees, and in the future, if we feel we must import something from Australia, we should exhaust the full list of spiders and reptiles before even considering the trees.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:54 AM on June 18 [59 favorites]


If you need shade or firewood, they grow amazingly fast in really dry marginal areas and they smell nice. But you sure don't want one near your house. Most wildlife avoid them.
posted by Bee'sWing at 3:12 PM on June 18


Oh my god, those poor people. The footage is giving me flashbacks to last year's horrendous fires in Fort McMurray, Alberta, just literal walls of flame. Just terrifying.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:15 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Will there be an inquiry on the possible role of plantation in spreading the fire?
posted by runcifex at 6:00 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


I saw this on the news this evening. The photos of burned out abandoned cars is absolutely horrifying.
posted by mmascolino at 6:42 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


in that there is a natural fire ecology that people have built into over many years, b

Yes and no. Poor forestry management has been blamed for the severity.

interesting article about that here

and here
posted by smoke at 10:46 PM on June 18 [3 favorites]


SysRq - Everything about eucalypts is extremely flammable

As fire is an integral part of their life cycle this is a survival mechanism for them, as I am sure you know. Eucalypts are fantastic at what they do; a terrible plant to introduce into an ecosystem that is not reliant on fire! At a high atmospheric temperature (somewhere above 40°C) the leaves exude oil vapour, creating an instant fireball with application of a spark! Apparently, 'during a large bush fire, the crown can be separated from the remainder of the tree by the excessive force of the fire. Once launched, it can reach heights of around 5,000 feet and travel up to 14 miles while still very much alight.' Which is something I hadn't heard before!

Fire was used as a land management tool by the Australian population for approximately 49,000 years. It is only in the past few hundred years that this knowledge has been systematically destroyed.
posted by asok at 9:00 AM on June 19 [5 favorites]


This is so terrible.

The last sentence of the intro of the Wikipedia article goes:

"On warm days, eucalyptus forests are sometimes shrouded in a smog-like mist of vaporised volatile organic compounds..."

Given the context of this FPP, that is the most frightening thing I've learned about nature recently.
posted by seyirci at 11:26 AM on June 19 [2 favorites]


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