Deadly Forest Fires in Portugal

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A series of four initial deadly wildfires erupted across central Portugal in June 2017 within minutes of each other, resulting in at least 64 deaths and 204 injured people.

The majority of deaths took place in Pedrógao Grande when a fire swept across a road filled with evacuees escaping in their cars.

Portuguese officials dispatched more than 1,700 firefighters nationwide to combat the blazes and Prime Minister António Costa declared three days of national mourning.

Spain, France, Morocco and Italy deployed firefighters and Water Bombers Canadairs to help extinguish the fires.

An intense heat wave preceded the fires, with many areas of Portugal seeing temperatures in excess of 40 °C (104 °F).

During the night of 17–18 June, a total of 156 fires erupted across the country, particularly in mountainous areas 200 km (120 mi) north-northeast of Lisbon.

The fires began in the Pedrógão Grande municipality before spreading dramatically causing a firestorm.

Dry thunderstorms preceded the event and may have ignited some fires: the police, have found the tree that started the fire when it was struck by lightning.

The forests of Pinhal Interior Norte, where Pedrógão Grande is located, are predominately composed of pine trees and the invasive species, eucalyptus, the latter having surpassed pine as the dominant tree in the country in the last ten years.

Although most official reports point to a dry thunderstorm as the cause of the tragedy, the president of the Portuguese Firefighters League expressed his conviction the fire was provoked by arsonists.

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