I thought that I was safe from fire moving to the edge of my village, Fiais da Beira in central Portugal. Still, the October 15, 2017 fire burned much of my 1.6 hectares of olive trees, grapevines and fruit trees. My 14-year-old son and I fled the house when we spotted columns of flames charging toward us in thickened, eye-stinging smoke. The left road out of the village was engulfed in fire. I turned right and tried to drive to the town of Tabua 17 kilometers away. However, the fire lined the road and visibility was so obscured that I soon made a U-turn and drove to the village center of stone, hoping that the red embers on opposite sides of us would stop falling and the furious wind would stop gusting. We were trapped in the village. Frighteningly, I had no Plan C. We stayed in the car five hours until we walked home at 3 in the morning.
Thank God, my son and I are fine, and our home was untouched, largely due to neighbors who beat out the fire with eucalyptus fronds. Firefighters couldn’t get to us, planes cannot fly at night, and these fires were monumental, fast, and off-the-scale.