Update on Local Fires, action and reflection

Sunday, 13th August the fire began in the region of Lourical de Campo, Casal de Serra, and in the following days the fire spread throughout the region to the villages of Sao Fiel, Soalheira, Castelo Novo, Alpedrinha, Vale de Prazeres, Alcongosta and Souto de Casa.

Friends, neighbours, and friends of friends suffered losses to trees, plants, food for animals, food for people, precious fire wood, poly tunnels, expensive irrigation systems, buildings….

The loss to the people who love and use the mountain as a place of refuge, a place to walk or bike, a place sit under trees and enjoy the view has caused a deep pain and many from the outside are wondering how they can help.

In the 10 days following the 19th August, there were self organised work teams visiting and helping out at several farms we were aware of. Some of the work included cutting down burnt trees, pulling burnt trees from the forests, keeping night fire watch, digging channels to water remaining living trees, creating fire breaks, removing burnt plastic irrigation pipes, reinstalling electric to homes, demolishing greenhouses/polytunnels, food was cooked and delivered, even massages offered!……much work, done with love and friendship.

These operations of the last weeks, were the beginning ’emergency’ works.

There is STILL emergency work to be done.

In the mountain, and on people’s properties, a priority will be to stabilise the earth and as far as possible create ways of diverting and collecting water, to prevent flooding and much of the top soil cascading down before the rains come. This is known to some as earth works – often done by professionals with big machines along contor lines.

We at Mount of Oaks, are not professionals in this action – however we were at a meeting last week – a meeting of civic groups/associations who have an interest in the future of the mountain and it’s people. There at the meeting engineers and others were discussing the interventions needed.

At that meeting there were conversations about the immediate actions that need to be taken and some of the long term goals. In the immediate it was recognised that we cannot let the needs of the people effected by the fire leave the political and social agenda.

There is a definate need to keep pressure on the local authorities to ACT NOW with heavy machines to create ditches and ponds along contor lines to help prevent the soil erosion and possible flooding when the heavy rains come.

 A pressure group is forming, under the banner ‘Cidadãos pela Gardunha’ with those who were in attendance last Monday night. When more information filters through, we will pass this information out. Here is the link to follow the news in Portuguese: https://www.facebook.com/cidadaospelagardunha/

In the medium term, there is a plan for a petition to the Prime Minister and the need for lobbying on behalf of the interests of the reforestation of the mountain in local and indigenous trees.

Also in the medium term, the collection of acorns and chestnuts from the mountain (those that remained) and germinating these to provide for a future nursery to reforest the land will be an autumn activity.

Longer term design and planning will be required for this sort of fire not to happen again – this requires a complex amount of planning around fire prevention, education, fire breaks and much more.

In October there will be an OPEN FORUM in Fundao to hear the ideas, complaints and concerns of the local residents. This gives time to carefully consider and prepare for this public meeting. When a date for this is set, we will share the information.
Solidarity Walk
This Sunday, 10th September a support walk has been organised by the association Guardunha Viva, leaving Fundao at 8:30am. The walk will be 11km. The people organising this were present at the meeting and were sharing that it is a chance for people to show solidarity to the land and people of the effected areas. Here is the link to the facebook link – check the link for more information on the goals, what to bring and how to support. PLEASE SHARE AND CONSIDER COMING ALONG. Some of us will go and document the walk. It’s important to show our solidarity.
Meeting for the Forests
Reforest Portugal Network invites everyone to participate in the moment of collective construction of the project and its ramifications that will happen at the Meeting for the Forests in Elvas on 9 and 10 September 2017.
Registration Form link:
Solidarity Giving
In the coming weeks we will share ways that from the outside you can give financially to help with the regeneration of livelihoods, and forests. Watch this space.
Active Prayer
As important as our action is, there’s also the need to hold people who have been affected, land and animals in our hearts. Please consider offering Love, Light and Peace.

Many thanks to Keri for the photographs. keri@kerimillardphotography.com