Portugal Braces for Wildfire Season after 106 Died in 2017

Thousands of firefighters are on standby

 

This is a Tuesday, Aug. 15 2017, file photo of a firefighting plane drops its load to prevent wildfires from reigniting over the village of Agua Formosa, near Vila de Rei, central Portugal. Portugal’s government announced Monday Oct. 23, 2017 that it is beefing up its wildfire response with 17 water-dropping aircraft after forest blazes killed more than 100 people this year. With warm, dry weather stretching into the fall, the government says it is doubling its air assets to 35 planes and helicopters.. (AP Photo/Armando Franca, file)

 

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Almost 6,300 firefighters are on standby in Portugal as the country gears up for the annual wildfire season amid controversy over whether enough has been done to prevent a repeat of last year’s unprecedented 106 deaths.

The government says that as from Tuesday, 13 water-dropping helicopters are available, with other aircraft already contracted for the critical period from June 1.

Authorities have enacted a series of measures since last year’s deadly blazes, including a national and mandatory forest cleaning program.

A severe drought last year left forests tinder-dry. Experts have blamed the large-scale wildfires on woodland that is often neglected. Rural areas of Portugal are commonly populated by elderly people who sometimes are unable to clear forest debris.

Critics say the government has been slow to act.

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