Accidental Heroes of the Algarve

Without a doubt there could be many heroes of the Algarve, the Nurses & Doctors, who save people lives every day, the horticulturists who save the 2000 year old olive trees, -- but the outstanding heroes recognized by the people are the fishermen and the 'bombeiros' (firemen) who feed the population, and save lives in times of greatest peril.

The Fishermen

Since ancient times the Algarvian fishermen left in their hand painted wooden boats in the chill of the night, to bring back the food for their loved ones, along with enough to sell to make a living. Even today you can see the lights of the boats bobbing far out at sea. 

Accidental Heroes of the Algarve

Closer to the coast fishermen laid down clay pots on the ocean floor in hopes of catching octopus or better still lobsters who use the pots as shelter. Large sardine canning factories sprung up in the late eighteen hundreds to can the fish that was then shipped around the world. Names like Marie Elisabeth became famous everywhere the little tins went. As the boats got bigger the fishermen could reach out further into the sea and their fishing 'armades' stretched out to catch the larger fish, the great tunas that could feed a whole village. The town of Armaa de Pra was the centre of the 'armades' of Tuna boats that went out nightly. On Sunday night even the fishermen rested. Thus there would never be truly fresh fish in the markets on Monday. The Portuguese water dog accompanied the fishermen to help spread the nets from boat to boat and to save the odd fisherman that fell overboard. Even the dogs toes are webbed to help his swimming efforts. After a long cold night at sea, the weary fishermen would come back to the shores, sell their catch and mend their nets and only then walk slowly to the nearest 'tasa' for a brandy to take the chill from their bones.

The 'Bombeiros' Firemen

In the midst of the blazing heat of summer, a glint from a shard of glass, or a carelessly thrown cigarette, can start a fire that can rage for days burning all the forest in its path. It is the Bombeiros' or firemen who risk their lives to stop the blaze, and save nearly every house in the fire's path. 

Accidental Heroes of the Algarve

Fire Roads are cut across any wide expanse of forest so the firemen have a chance of stopping the flames. In most towns across the Algarve the firemen are volunteer workers. They are granted times off work to do their voluntary duty. For the larger fires many small towns will join their men to fight the blaze. There are only two helicopters that can fly down and bring up water from the dams, that is then released over the fires. Unfortunately as night falls the helicopters are grounded until dawn. Many of the ex-pats have joined together to raise money to buy urgently needed equipment for the 'bombeiros', including Jaws of Life, fireproof uniforms etc. Everyone is welcome to become a member of the 'Bombeiros', with a donation of 10 at any firehall, but a more generous donation is always welcome, never forgetting these real heroes.