[permaculture] Wildfires in Portugal, a post from someone in the area to the Permaculture Portugal Facebook Group

Lawrence London lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Fri Oct 20 13:20:53 EDT 2017

Anthropogenic global warming and climate change bringing abnormal weather
Facebook: Permaculture Portugal group: Loetje Loe
post <https://www.facebook.com/loetje.loe/posts/10214743306687160>.

<https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/mainfrenascer?source=feed_text> - we need
change, and Permaculture is the way to design that change
Loetje Loe

And then it happened: The Big Bang

After succesfuly having fought the fires threatening our lush and green
valley for over a week, last sunday the worst happened. Hurricane Ophelia
was so strong causing the fronts to reignite. The fire moved in a
tremendous speed over the land destroying everything on it’s path. Even
though the local mayors and civilians tried everything they could by
filling their water tanks in the river, soon the flames were too big and
the fronts were closing us in from all angles.

I received the call on Sunday midday that one of the firefronts had
reignted on our ridge and the flames were already crossing the road. With
no Bombeiros present because they were fighting elsewhere and planes that
couldn’t fly due to the strong wind, I was preparing for the worst. I tried
to be of assistance to those on the front arranging water and trucks and
communicating with locals on the ground, but I soon heard that the fire
already had reached the houses of my dear friends on top of the mountain. I
saw the fire snake moving down into the valley heading for the next village
where more friends were living. Around 3pm the internet went down and as
quick as I could I disconnected the gas bottles from my kitchens and placed
them far away from the house.

I packed the dogs in the car, filled 5L water bottles, took my backpack
with torches and some food and drove off. I first tried to escape via an
exit road towards the bigger cities but this road was already taken by
flames. I drove back up the mountain to try another one, but this one was
also blocked. When I reached the third exit over the mountain I saw another
firefront moving in, so this was also no option anymore. I decided to go
back to the village to seek refugee there, being surrounded by stone
houses. The wind was incredibly fierce and our village was closed in by the
two firefronts. We were all trapped in the valley and more friends were
coming to my village where we arranged a basement for the animals and
children. There were huge explosions to be seen and skyscraper high
fireballs were rolling down the hills.

We watched the fires from a rooftop and at first it looked like the wind
was working in our advantage blowing the fires away from us. While sitting
on the roof we had a clear vision over the valley and we knew that all our
friends in the neighbouring villages were going through the same horrific
event, trying to protect their houses and lives. When one of the fronts
crossed the road below us, we knew it was coming for us. In minutes we saw
the first building in the village going up in flames, the water lines were
already cut off for some hours and people were running up and down with
buckets with water from wells to extinguish the embers that were landing on
the roofs of other houses.

When the smoke became to thick we went in the basement, putting wet cotton
clothes in front of our mouths and trying to close all the gaps to prevent
smoke from coming in. The door and walls became incredibly hot and the
sound of hurricane fire around us was terrifying. After an hour or so it
became quiet and we heard the first voices outside. We went outside and saw
two huge buildings 100meter from us still burning but the firefronts had
passed us. The entire valley was covered in fires, explosions from cars and
houses were still going off, electricity poles were fallen onto the houses
and on fire. We heard that the firefront had covered a huge area and was
closing in the cities 20km away where many of our friends were hiding.

When daylight came I was happy to see from distance that the canopy of my
oak and cherry trees was still there, but I knew I was going to face a lot
of death and destruction. The olive orchard with 50 very old olive trees
was gone and everything we had build up over the past 1,5 years was burnt
to the ground. The oak forest is severely burnt but I think many of them
will survive. It gives us again clear evidence that deciduous trees don’t
burn like the eucalyptus and pine plantations. Seeing my beloved Birdhouse
and cabins turned to ashes was a hard one to swallow, but the most
difficult thing for me was to enter the area where the pigs live. I just
couldn’t. When I kneeled down in tears too scared of walking towards their
pen, I looked to my right and saw two cute faces peeking around the corner.
They survived!!! I couldn’t be happier. Because the fires reached us so
quick I was’t able to open the door for them, but I am happy now I didn’t
because the fire would have trapped them. Now they had found a hiding place
under the bush and hammock on a lil patch that was untouched by the flames.

This has been my experience of the horrific night and every day I hear a
dozen more. Thousands of people lost their houses and farms, a total area
of 440.000 hectares of land is burned to the ground, 48 deaths and still
counting. As I have been saying before, this is not a natural disaster. The
pulp and paper industry is accountable for it, who want to cover 80% of
Portugals forest land in Eucalyptus plantations. We already knew it, but
now we literally experienced it over the past days: the big industries walk
over dead bodies and it's them who are responsible for the many deaths, the
immense loss of natural resources and the misery of thousands of normal,
hard working people. The burns on our skin make us painfully aware what it
means when profit is prioritized over people and planet.

Although it's still surreal to walk through the warzone, I am still
optimistic and motivated to fight back and to keep showing what the
destructive tendencies of the corporations are about. On behalf of my
community in Benfeita valley I am reaching out for help to keep the
destructive Eucalyptus companies out and restore the burnt areas to natural
forests that not only contribute to a healthy ecosystem and attract
wildlife back to the area, but also provide a safe firebreak to prevent a
disaster like this to happen again.

With my very knowledgable and beloved friends I have been working for
months on a reforestation plan that is ecological, social and financial
sustainable. Its a large scale plan to transform the 3000ha in our bowl
into a healthy ecosystem where humans and nature co-exist in a mutual
beneficial relationship. Now, after the fire, it’s more urgent than ever to
get the financial resources in to execute this plan quickly. Not only to
provide in work for the locals who lost everything and desperately need it
in order to sustain themselves through the upcoming months, but more
importantly to keep the Eucalyptus companies out of our area who already,
one day after the event, have been knocking on peoples door to buy their
burnt land cheaply.

We lost everything, but not all is lost. Please share our story far and
wide, because the Western media has turned to silence, in the hope those
people who can help providing the resources we need, will find us. Even
though internet is still flaky, I am happy to share my story with
journalist and I'll be extremely grateful for impact investors, who care
about our natural environment, to reach out in order to guarentee our
safety for future generations and that of our planet.

Until then, we’ll keep fighting, uniting and igniting that spark for a
better future.
The eagles will fly again, and so do we.

[image: Inline image 1]
Lawrence F. London, Jr.
lfljvenaura at gmail.com
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