The small tourist hot spot island Madeira has been a hot-spot in more ways than one this week. It was yet another place battling summer fires. This Portuguese island may be small but fires that took hold above the village of Monte, a little earlier this week, could be viewed from space. NASA has images online which illustrate perfectly how big the fire was.
The fire broke out in the village of Monte which sits high above the island's capital Funchal. Within days multiple fires were sizzling parts of the island and arson was suspected.
Visitors to the island tend to take the cable car up to Monte, but the most daring visitors enjoy a toboggan ride down. As the toboggan, and the men who guide them, rattle through the streets they are fun to watch but not for the fainthearted to travel in. Anyway they tend to leave you stranded a fair way from the heart of rambling Funchal. This means you are left with what can seem a long walk if it is hot, a taxi ride or a walk back up to take the cable car down.
The cable car offers fantastic views over Funchal and parts of the island. It is a fairly stable ride and the modern cable cars work efficiently. Unless you are terrified of heights they are well worth a ride. The small mainly clear sided cars hold up to four or six people. Price wise it is cheaper to buy a return ticket.
The fires over Funchal did not deter visitors but they can be worrying. This week's fires evoked memories of our visit to Madeira in 2006 We loved the place and stayed in Canico de Baixo a little to the east of Funchal. During our visit fires broke out behind what is sometimes called the theatre that is Funchal. Heavy smoke could be seen mulling over the backdrop and at times it looked as it would gain a foothold.
At that time firefighters struggled to control the flames. Madeira has no air force or emergency planes which could be utilised to drop water. You would however think that as an island with planes bobbing in and out of its airport many times a day it could call on tour operators for assistance?
What was sad on one of our trips around the island was the damage to the landscape the fire had done. Our lovely local lad driver explained though that the fire was probably started by an irate farmer. It was all to do with EU restrictions hitting the pockets of farmers.
Many Madeirans are quite poor in spite of the tourist trade. Vistors tend to be aged 50 plus and some are wealthy. All of this means that without tourism the islanders would be truly poor.
Madeira Island Direct reported on August 20 "Fire-fighters from Machico [the island's former capital] were in attendance in addition to those from Funchal although residents were requesting that further resources were made available. In Corujeira de Dentro people were becoming concerned about the intensification of the fire, with flames still very active and fear that there are firemen who are not able to overcome the time the fire. There is a fairly strong breeze in Funchal this afternoon."
Breezes of course fan the flames and intensify the heat and damage.
By Wednesday there were reports that the fires were under control. Catch up with the latest news from the island at the Madeira Times, an English speaking online publication, designed with the tourist or ex-pat at heart. It has a weekly report on this week's fires and some stunning images.
Where is Madeira? Madeira and Porto Santo lie between the coast of north west Africa and the Azores, in the Atlantic Ocean. It was a volcanic Island and its beaches tend to be made up of volcanic rock, unless they are man-made. It has a mountainous inner and is a fascinating place to visit.