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Portugal is struggling to control a huge fire at a natural park – Science-Environment News – Report by AFR

More than 1,200 firefighters struggled on Wednesday to bring under control a huge forest fire in Portugal’s Serra da Estrela park, which resumed just days after it was brought under control.

Strong winds have hampered attempts to combat the spread of the fire, one of 195 that have devastated around 92,000 hectares of land across Portugal this year amid record temperatures.

The fire at the UNESCO-designated park broke out again on Tuesday after being brought under control five days earlier, and is estimated to have already consumed around 25,000 hectares (62,000 acres) of land.

It still poses a significant challenge, even though “90 percent of the extent of this fire is now under control,” said Andre Fernandes, head of the civil protection agency.

July proved Portugal’s hottest in almost a century, with the country grappling with its worst wildfires since 2017, which killed around 100 people.

Scientists say human-caused climate change is contributing to extreme weather events, including wildfires and heat waves.

Neighboring Spain has also been battling a spate of wildfires in recent weeks after also seeing rising temperatures.

The Serra da Estrela fire started outside of downtown Covilha on August 6, and authorities say they deployed 390 fire engines and 14 planes and helicopters to bring it under control.

Firefighters hoping the fire won’t spread further before temperatures are expected to rise again on Friday have thrown a 160-kilometer cordon around the area, Fernandes told reporters.

The fire has injured 27 people, including three seriously, while 45 people have been evacuated as a precaution since Monday.

Residents of the village of Orjais in the foothills of the mountain range helped fight the flames, which came within tens of meters of their homes.

“It was chaos,” Fatima Cardoso, 62, told AFP.

Authorities are concerned about the fire’s impact on wildlife as the Serra da Estrela is Portugal’s largest nature reserve known for its wildlife diversity, including wild cats and lizards.

“We have not yet reached the end of this critical time for fires,” Interior Minister Jose Luis Carneiro warned after meeting meteorologists.

The upcoming heatwave is expected to continue into September, which Carneiro said should be drier and hotter than usual.

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