There’ve been forest fires all over Portugal this week so we’ve been in a constant state of low-level anxiety.

It’s obviously a much bigger deal for people who actually live here.

For us, it’s meant:

  • walking through slightly smoky air
  • asking everyone we pass whether there are fires nearby
  • spending a lot of time on the internet trying to figure out how close and how bad the fires are
  • telling our families that we’re being as safe as we can be

Weird weather

It’s the middle of October and at the start of the week it was 33 degrees. Despite all our attempts to follow the sun on this trip, we were really happy to see the rain when it eventually came.

We spoke to the guy running our accommodation a few days ago and he told us how things have been for him. He said this year was the first time in 37 years that his water tank had been empty.

He also said that it had been so dry this year that the fires were impossible to manage. When it was windy, sparks from one fire could start another fire 20 kilometres away, which left everyone feeling a bit uneasy. Having said that, we seemed to be the most visibly worried people. Everyone around us was stoically ploughing on.

Websites we’ve used

We first found out about the fires on Sunday when the hashtag #prayforPortugal started trending on Twitter. We were a bit alarmed.

Then we looked at Google Maps and saw an SOS alert for the area we were in:

Google Maps showing a fire alert for our location

Google didn’t give us any solutions, though. Only problems. So we went to GOV.UK to see what the latest Portugal travel advice was.

GOV.UK linked to the Portuguese Met Office website. It had a map showing the relative severity of the fires in different areas:

Map of Portugal split into regions, each of which are colour-coded to indicate the fire risk there. The highest risk areas take up all the top half of the map except for a strip of low-risk in the north-west

GOV.UK also linked to the Civil Protection Authority website. It had a map with real-time information about current fires:

Map of Portugal on the Civil Protection Authority website, zoomed in to focus on our area. It shows markers for wildfires, bad weather and where there is a mix of the two. There is a wildfire marker north of Porto

We checked the real-time map obsessively until we were fairly sure all the major fires had gone out.

Lost in translation

We didn’t just use websites to find out what was going on. We asked at hostels and tourist information, and we watched the news whenever we could. The only problems with the news were that:

  • only the worst stuff made the headlines
  • it was all in Portuguese

That meant we got a lot of our info from scary images rather than nuanced language. Very unrelaxing for cowards like us.

On the bright side

Things have looked much better for a few days now:

Map of Portugal split into regions colour-coded to indicate the fire risk with almost all showing no risk

And the people at the tourist information office said that all the fires have now been put out. Phew.

The kids are alright

Portugal’s amazing and it deserves better than this shit. Thankfully, the kids seem to be on the case.