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Portugal puts out Algarve fire, firefighters keep vigil

Portugal puts out Algarve fire, firefighters keep vigil
A firefighter drops water in the aftermath of the fire, next to a road between Monchique and Silves, Portugal August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes   -   Copyright  PEDRO NUNES(Reuters)
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LISBON (Reuters) – Portuguese firefighters have put out a huge fire that devastated the forested hills in the southern Algarve tourist region, the head of the operation said on Friday, but emergency services will remain in the area to monitor potential hotspots.

Europe’s biggest wildfire this year forced nearly 300 people to leave their homes but nobody died as authorities went to great lengths to keep people safe after last year, when the worst fires on record killed 114 in Portugal.

This year’s fire erupted a week ago during an extreme heatwave. Europe’s summer has been unusually hot, sparking wildfires as far apart as Sweden and Greece, where a brutal blaze killed at least 88.

“The fire has been dominated,” said Patricia Gaspar, who is commanding the Portuguese operation. “At this moment there is no significant risk that the fire will spread.”

Firefighters had maximised their efforts during the cooler night and early morning temperatures and Gaspar said they would remain in the area to monitor for potential reignitions. More than 1,450 firefighters, 460 fire engines and 15 aircraft have been involved in the effort.

About 40 people have been treated for smoke inhalation and burns, many of them firefighters.

A huge plume of smoke hung over the region since it started, reaching some of the popular beach resorts on the coast.

The fire has burnt through 27,000 hectares of mainly eucalyptus forest in the hills above the Algarve coast, according to European Union data. A fire in the same area in 2003 destroyed 41,000 hectares of forest.

Portugal’s government was overwhelmed last year by fires in June and October in extreme drought. The interior minister resigned and the opposition launched a vote of no-confidence, which the government survived.

(Reporting By Axel Bugge; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Peter Graff)

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