1,000 firefighters battle wildfires in central Portugal

Members of the emergency services try to extinguish wildfires in Vila de Rei Portugal

Members of the emergency services try to extinguish wildfires in Vila de Rei Portugal

More than 800 firefighters battled on Sunday one wildfire sweeping across central Portugal after being able to control two other blazes that prompted authorities to partially evacuate a village and left 20 people injured, one of them in a serious condition, officials said.

Firefighting aircraft, including planes and helicopters, has been used to help extinguish three fires that started on Saturday afternoon in the rural mountainous Castelo Branco area, located 124 miles northeast of the capital, Lisbon.

One seriously injured civilian was evacuated by helicopter to Lisbon, the commander of the civil protection authority for the region, Luis Belo Costa, told a news conference. At least seven firefighters have also been hurt.

Ricardo Aires, the mayor of Vila de Rei, one of the affected municipalities, told Portugal's public broadcaster RTP that there weren't enough firefighters or resources.

Fourteen airplanes along with 251 firefighters vehicles on the ground are also battling the blazes, as well as 20 soldiers and four bulldozers.

Portuguese president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, said in a statement that he was following the situation closely and sent solidarity to those affected.

Two other forest fires reported on Saturday have since been brought under control. Six regions in central and southern Portugal have been placed on maximum fire alert.

However, temperatures are now below the threshold of 41 degrees Celsius at which a red alert is triggered.

The fire was made increasingly hard to fight due to strong winds in the area, and temperatures in the Castelo Branco region, which is home to more than 200,000 people. In 2017, 106 people were killed as the country saw some of the deadliest fires in history, which forced Portugal to have better methods of fighting them.

Portugal is still traumatised by those deaths, with authorities taking extra precautions.

"The suspect's actions put people's lives, houses and the forest at risk", the police said, without explicitly saying the detained man was responsible for the ongoing wildfire.

With fields and pastures abandoned, the forests are poorly maintained, with the dense undergrowth facilitating the spread of the fires.

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