Portuguese officials reported on Wednesday, June 21, that they expect to extinguish the ongoing forest fires - which started on the afternoon of Saturday, June 17, in Pedrógão Grande and spread across several fronts in central Portugal - by the end of the day. Additionally, authorities have stated that the fire was most likely the result of a criminal act, adding that lightning - previously thought to be the source of the fire - struck two hours after the fire began.
As of Wednesday, June 21, 64 fatalities have been reported and approximately 30,000 hectares of land have been affected. Maximum fire alerts remain in effect in most of the far north (Bragança, Guarda), center (Coimbra, Castelo Branco, Santarem, Leira, Portalegre), and south (Beja, Faro) of the country. The rest of Portugal is currently under lesser fire alerts, except coastal areas in the north around Porto, where the risk remains low.
A map of the affected areas can be found on the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA) website.
While forest fires are common every summer in Portugal, this is likely the most deadly forest fire in the country's history. Two army battalions were deployed to assist the approximately 2000 firefighters working to bring fires under control nationwide. France, Spain, and Italy have sent fire-fighting planes to assist. The government declared three days of mourning, from June 18 to 20.
There has been increased risk of wildfires in Portugal as a result of an ongoing heatwave and strong winds. Approximately one-third of forest fires in Portugal are found to be criminal.
Individuals in Portugal are advised to monitor developments to the situation. Authorities have advised residents to keep their radios on and to follow all instructions (e.g. potential evacuation orders).