Standing in the wooded hills north of Lisbon is like standing in an oven.
Our thermometer read 43°C (109.4°F) around noon as a hot, dry wind whipped the ash into our faces.
We had followed a team of firefighters as they rushed to quell the flames burning through drought-scorched trees and brush.
The heat must have been unbearable for them in their heavy suits, climbing the steep, rocky slopes.
Stoic residents watched, as dogs barked in cages and a beautiful white horse paced nervously in its paddock.
The past few days have been terrible for people who live in the small communities that dot this region.
Local owner Feliciano Liberal told me he has three properties that just escaped the fire.
He said, “We opened the door and saw everything burning.
“I used a tractor filled with water to put out the flames.”
He shrugs his shoulders, looking tired, and adds: “I’m sad.
” What can we do ? Nothing. This is the third time this has happened.
Like other residents, he says the fire season is getting longer and worse.
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Much of the country is experiencing drought, turning vegetation into kindling for fires fueled by soaring temperatures.
As emergency services struggled to maintain control on Tuesday, evacuations were ordered, a major highway was closed and major festivals were canceled.
Portugal’s prime minister had already issued a grim warning that things could get worse in the coming days, as temperatures soar towards 46C (114.8F) in parts of the country.
Climate change blamed
Manuel Santos, second in command of firefighting operations in the area north of Lisbon, said: “There is a large area that is already burned.
“The temperature is rising and we are worried.
“We work to try to minimize people’s pain.”
Commander Santos blames climate change for making matters worse.
Scientists agree that as our world warms, it brings more frequent and more severe weather events.
For some, that means unusual rains or storms, but in Europe, especially in the south, that seems to mean prolonged periods of almost unbearable heat.
People will adapt like they always do, but it’s deeply unpleasant, and in Portugal today it was scary.
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