Twenty injured as 1,800 firefighters battle fires in Portugal with residents forced to flee homes

About 1,800 firefighters were struggling to contain wildfires in central Portugal that have already injured 20 people, including eight firefighters, authorities said today.

The fires broke out on Saturday across three fronts in the district of Castelo Branco, 125 miles northeast of Lisbon, Portugal’s Civil Protection Agency said.

Firefighters were being supported by 19 firefighting aircraft and hundreds of vehicles.

It is the first major bout of wildfires in Portugal this year. 

The fires broke out on Saturday across three fronts in the district of Castelo Branco, 125 miles northeast of Lisbon, Portugal's Civil Protection Agency said. Pictured: A firefighter monitors the progression of a wildfire at Amendoa in Macao, central Portugal, today

The fires broke out on Saturday across three fronts in the district of Castelo Branco, 125 miles northeast of Lisbon, Portugal's Civil Protection Agency said. Pictured: A firefighter monitors the progression of a wildfire at Amendoa in Macao, central Portugal, today

The fires broke out on Saturday across three fronts in the district of Castelo Branco, 125 miles northeast of Lisbon, Portugal’s Civil Protection Agency said. Pictured: A firefighter monitors the progression of a wildfire at Amendoa in Macao, central Portugal, today

Firefighters were being supported by 19 firefighting aircraft (one, pictured at Sarnadas, near Macao, today) and hundreds of vehicles. It is the first major bout of wildfires in Portugal this year

Firefighters were being supported by 19 firefighting aircraft (one, pictured at Sarnadas, near Macao, today) and hundreds of vehicles. It is the first major bout of wildfires in Portugal this year

Firefighters were being supported by 19 firefighting aircraft (one, pictured at Sarnadas, near Macao, today) and hundreds of vehicles. It is the first major bout of wildfires in Portugal this year

In a statement released on Sunday afternoon, police said a 55-year-old man was detained on suspicion of starting a blaze in the district of Castelo Branco, where the wildfires started before spreading to nearby Santarem (pictured, a firefighter battles the blaze today)

In a statement released on Sunday afternoon, police said a 55-year-old man was detained on suspicion of starting a blaze in the district of Castelo Branco, where the wildfires started before spreading to nearby Santarem (pictured, a firefighter battles the blaze today)

In a statement released on Sunday afternoon, police said a 55-year-old man was detained on suspicion of starting a blaze in the district of Castelo Branco, where the wildfires started before spreading to nearby Santarem (pictured, a firefighter battles the blaze today)

'The suspect's actions put people's lives, houses and the forest at risk,' the police said, without explicitly saying the arrested man was responsible for the ongoing wildfire. Pictured: Ruins of a warehouse are seen after a wildfire at Relva in Macao, central Portugal, today

'The suspect's actions put people's lives, houses and the forest at risk,' the police said, without explicitly saying the arrested man was responsible for the ongoing wildfire. Pictured: Ruins of a warehouse are seen after a wildfire at Relva in Macao, central Portugal, today

‘The suspect’s actions put people’s lives, houses and the forest at risk,’ the police said, without explicitly saying the arrested man was responsible for the ongoing wildfire. Pictured: Ruins of a warehouse are seen after a wildfire at Relva in Macao, central Portugal, today

A villager holds a hose and wears a cloth over his face as a wildfire comes close to his house at Amendoa in Macao

A villager holds a hose and wears a cloth over his face as a wildfire comes close to his house at Amendoa in Macao

A villager holds a hose and wears a cloth over his face as a wildfire comes close to his house at Amendoa in Macao

In a statement released on Sunday afternoon, police said a 55-year-old man was detained on suspicion of starting a blaze in the district of Castelo Branco, where the wildfires started before spreading to nearby Santarem.

‘The suspect’s actions put people’s lives, houses and the forest at risk,’ the police said, without explicitly saying the arrested man was responsible for the ongoing wildfire.

Internal administration minister Eduardo Cabrita said police had opened an investigation into the fires, adding that local authorities considered it unusual that all the blazes had started in a narrow time frame between 2.30pm and 3.30pm local time on Saturday in the same area.

Firefighters stand by as flames rise into the air after they tried to extinguish the wildfire near Cardigos village, in central Portugal

Firefighters stand by as flames rise into the air after they tried to extinguish the wildfire near Cardigos village, in central Portugal

Firefighters stand by as flames rise into the air after they tried to extinguish the wildfire near Cardigos village, in central Portugal

A National Guard Firefighter uses a hose during a wildfire on Roda village in Macao. Smoke rises into the air and blocks out the sun in the background

A National Guard Firefighter uses a hose during a wildfire on Roda village in Macao. Smoke rises into the air and blocks out the sun in the background

A National Guard Firefighter uses a hose during a wildfire on Roda village in Macao. Smoke rises into the air and blocks out the sun in the background

Internal administration minister Eduardo Cabrita said police had opened an investigation into the fires, adding that local authorities considered it unusual that all the blazes had started in a narrow time frame between 2.30pm and 3.30pm local time on Saturday in the same area. Pictured: Firefighters try to extinguish a wildfire at Sarnada

Internal administration minister Eduardo Cabrita said police had opened an investigation into the fires, adding that local authorities considered it unusual that all the blazes had started in a narrow time frame between 2.30pm and 3.30pm local time on Saturday in the same area. Pictured: Firefighters try to extinguish a wildfire at Sarnada

Internal administration minister Eduardo Cabrita said police had opened an investigation into the fires, adding that local authorities considered it unusual that all the blazes had started in a narrow time frame between 2.30pm and 3.30pm local time on Saturday in the same area. Pictured: Firefighters try to extinguish a wildfire at Sarnada

Strong winds and high temperatures were making it harder for firefighters to put out the remaining wildfire, although they have been able to control 85 per cent of the flames in Vila de Rei, a municipality in Castelo Branco. Pictured: The scene facing firefighters at Amendoa

Strong winds and high temperatures were making it harder for firefighters to put out the remaining wildfire, although they have been able to control 85 per cent of the flames in Vila de Rei, a municipality in Castelo Branco. Pictured: The scene facing firefighters at Amendoa

Strong winds and high temperatures were making it harder for firefighters to put out the remaining wildfire, although they have been able to control 85 per cent of the flames in Vila de Rei, a municipality in Castelo Branco. Pictured: The scene facing firefighters at Amendoa

A devastated woman holds her hands to her head as she looks on at a fire closing in on her brick house in Sarnadas, near Macao, today

A devastated woman holds her hands to her head as she looks on at a fire closing in on her brick house in Sarnadas, near Macao, today

A devastated woman holds her hands to her head as she looks on at a fire closing in on her brick house in Sarnadas, near Macao, today

Flames weave there way between trees in a forest in Cardigos, near Macao as firefighters work together to try to extinguish the blaze

Flames weave there way between trees in a forest in Cardigos, near Macao as firefighters work together to try to extinguish the blaze

Flames weave there way between trees in a forest in Cardigos, near Macao as firefighters work together to try to extinguish the blaze

A villager wearing a mask stands in front of a burning house at Roda village in Macao. Water runs down the road from where firefighters have tried ot put out a burning building in the background

A villager wearing a mask stands in front of a burning house at Roda village in Macao. Water runs down the road from where firefighters have tried ot put out a burning building in the background

A villager wearing a mask stands in front of a burning house at Roda village in Macao. Water runs down the road from where firefighters have tried ot put out a burning building in the background

'(It will be) an afternoon of intense work,' Belo Costa, a Civil Protection official, told reporters. Pictured: A plane and firefighters try to extinguish a wildfire at Sarnadas

'(It will be) an afternoon of intense work,' Belo Costa, a Civil Protection official, told reporters. Pictured: A plane and firefighters try to extinguish a wildfire at Sarnadas

‘(It will be) an afternoon of intense work,’ Belo Costa, a Civil Protection official, told reporters. Pictured: A plane and firefighters try to extinguish a wildfire at Sarnadas

Strong winds and high temperatures were making it harder for firefighters to put out the remaining wildfire, although they have been able to control 85 per cent of the flames in Vila de Rei, a municipality in Castelo Branco.

‘(It will be) an afternoon of intense work,’ Belo Costa, a Civil Protection official, told reporters.

Castelo Branco remains under a yellow risk alert with temperatures expected to reach 88F (31C) on Sunday, according to the national meteorological agency.

Castelo Branco remains under a yellow risk alert with temperatures expected to reach 88F (31C) on Sunday, according to the national meteorological agency. Pictured: Firefighters at work at Sarnadas

Castelo Branco remains under a yellow risk alert with temperatures expected to reach 88F (31C) on Sunday, according to the national meteorological agency. Pictured: Firefighters at work at Sarnadas

Castelo Branco remains under a yellow risk alert with temperatures expected to reach 88F (31C) on Sunday, according to the national meteorological agency. Pictured: Firefighters at work at Sarnadas

Ricardo Aires, the mayor of Vila de Rei (pictured), one of the affected municipalities, told Portugal's public broadcaster RTP that there were not enough firefighters or resources

Ricardo Aires, the mayor of Vila de Rei (pictured), one of the affected municipalities, told Portugal's public broadcaster RTP that there were not enough firefighters or resources

Ricardo Aires, the mayor of Vila de Rei (pictured), one of the affected municipalities, told Portugal’s public broadcaster RTP that there were not enough firefighters or resources

Portuguese president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, said in a statement he was following the situation closely and sent solidarity to those affected. Pictured: A firefighter weaves his way through burnt woodland in Sarnadas

Portuguese president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, said in a statement he was following the situation closely and sent solidarity to those affected. Pictured: A firefighter weaves his way through burnt woodland in Sarnadas

Portuguese president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, said in a statement he was following the situation closely and sent solidarity to those affected. Pictured: A firefighter weaves his way through burnt woodland in Sarnadas

A woman tries to extinguish a wildfire at Sarnadas, near Macao, using a branch on her land which was on fire yesterday

A woman tries to extinguish a wildfire at Sarnadas, near Macao, using a branch on her land which was on fire yesterday

A woman tries to extinguish a wildfire at Sarnadas, near Macao, using a branch on her land which was on fire yesterday

Ricardo Aires, the mayor of Vila de Rei, one of the affected municipalities, told Portugal’s public broadcaster RTP that there were not enough firefighters or resources.

Portuguese president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, said in a statement he was following the situation closely and sent solidarity to those affected.

A statement on the presidential website said: ‘Aware of adverse weather conditions, the President of the Republic conveys all solidarity to the men and women who fight them, as well as to the most directly affected populations, accompanied by all the Portuguese.’

A statement on the presidential website said: 'Aware of adverse weather conditions, the President of the Republic conveys all solidarity to the men and women who fight them, as well as to the most directly affected populations, accompanied by all the Portuguese.' Pictured: Firefighters and a plane try to extinguish a wildfire at Sarnadas today

A statement on the presidential website said: 'Aware of adverse weather conditions, the President of the Republic conveys all solidarity to the men and women who fight them, as well as to the most directly affected populations, accompanied by all the Portuguese.' Pictured: Firefighters and a plane try to extinguish a wildfire at Sarnadas today

A statement on the presidential website said: ‘Aware of adverse weather conditions, the President of the Republic conveys all solidarity to the men and women who fight them, as well as to the most directly affected populations, accompanied by all the Portuguese.’ Pictured: Firefighters and a plane try to extinguish a wildfire at Sarnadas today

State broadcaster RTP televised images of flames consuming wooded areas of the rural region that has seen recurrent wildfires in Portugal’s hot, dry summer months.

It showed firefighters hosing down a line of advancing flames as they rapidly approached houses in the village of Sarnadas – while desperate residents looked on and water-dumping aircraft swooped overhead.

While most of the injuries were caused by smoke inhalation, one person was evacuated to a hospital to be treated for burns, according to health authorities.

Televised images showed flames consuming wooded areas (pictured in Sarnadas) of the rural region that has seen recurrent wildfires in Portugal's hot, dry summer months

Televised images showed flames consuming wooded areas (pictured in Sarnadas) of the rural region that has seen recurrent wildfires in Portugal's hot, dry summer months

Televised images showed flames consuming wooded areas (pictured in Sarnadas) of the rural region that has seen recurrent wildfires in Portugal’s hot, dry summer months

While most of the injuries were caused by smoke inhalation, one person was evacuated to a hospital to be treated for burns, according to health authorities. Pictured: White smoke, from a fire in Portugal, rise over Merida, western Spain

While most of the injuries were caused by smoke inhalation, one person was evacuated to a hospital to be treated for burns, according to health authorities. Pictured: White smoke, from a fire in Portugal, rise over Merida, western Spain

While most of the injuries were caused by smoke inhalation, one person was evacuated to a hospital to be treated for burns, according to health authorities. Pictured: White smoke, from a fire in Portugal, rise over Merida, western Spain

At least one road was closed and several residents were told to leave their homes in the central municipality of Portugal (Sarnadas, pictured today)

At least one road was closed and several residents were told to leave their homes in the central municipality of Portugal (Sarnadas, pictured today)

At least one road was closed and several residents were told to leave their homes in the central municipality of Portugal (Sarnadas, pictured today)

The Portuguese Army deployed a mobile kitchen to help feed those affected by the fire (pictured in Vila de Rel, today) and was using its tracked vehicles to help clear roads for firefighting crews

The Portuguese Army deployed a mobile kitchen to help feed those affected by the fire (pictured in Vila de Rel, today) and was using its tracked vehicles to help clear roads for firefighting crews

The Portuguese Army deployed a mobile kitchen to help feed those affected by the fire (pictured in Vila de Rel, today) and was using its tracked vehicles to help clear roads for firefighting crews

At least one road was closed and several residents were told to leave their homes.

The Portuguese Army deployed a mobile kitchen to help feed those affected by the fire and was using its tracked vehicles to help clear roads for firefighting crews.

In recent years, the country has witnessed some of its deadliest fires on record, with 106 people killed in 2017.

That year’s death toll prompted the Portuguese government to back stronger firefighting prevention measures, leading to no wildfire deaths in 2018.

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