Fire at Quinta dos Malvedos

A bad combination of hot, dry weather, dried vegetation and a few sparks from the vintage steam train passing on the tracks below the winery led to two fires at Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos last Saturday.

One fire was in the strip of vegetation which runs from the railway tracks up towards the adega.  Arlindo, the caseiro, or bailiff, who resides on the property, took prompt action and was able to put out this fire himself before it spread further.

The second was more serious.  Just above the tracks, and at the foot of the eastern side of our Port Arthur vineyard is the dormitory where the winery team stay during the harvest.  Sparks set fire to dried grasses near the dormitory, and then the fire spread upward.  Luckily it did not get into either the dormitory or the Port Arthur vineyard, but it did run up a strip of wilderness alongside the vineyard and from there spread across a plot which fills the space above the vineyard up to the driveway into the quinta.

We have lost 1.5 hectares of vegetation, a mixture of olive, almond and cork trees, and also 150 mature grape vines that were planted along the margin of the entrance road.

The local volunteer fire department responded promptly, and was able to control and extinguish the fire before it spread into any vineyard parcels.

Arlindo and Alexandre Mariz, the viticulturalist responsible for Malvedos, will be looking at clearing some of these overgrown wilderness areas adjacent to the tracks, and we will also be reviewing the placement of hosepipes at the property so we can be prepared to deal promptly if, heaven forbid, the need should arise again.

Update 27 July

Paul sent some more photos with the comment “We had a lucky escape.”

This first is a closeup of the charred soil and rock alongside the tracks, near the winery.

Standing next to the winery (on the upper right are the vines that grow up over the arbour outside the lower level) looking along the tracks downriver, that embankment has completely burnt, normally that is covered in undergrowth which helps to stabilise the soil on such a steep surface, so it doesn’t wash down in the rain.

Looking upriver now, the next photo shows clearly where the fire started alongside the tracks near the dormitorio (out of sight to right) and then spread upwards through the brush alongside the Port Arthur vineyard.

Luckily the fire did not get into the vineyard, but it did carry on  upwards and then spread across a parcel of wilderness above Port Arthur, devestating about 1.5 hectares of olive, almond and cork trees.  The road into the property formed a natural barrier which prevented the fire spreading across to the vineyards above, before the fire department was able to extinguish it.


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8 thoughts on “Fire at Quinta dos Malvedos

  1. Hi Andy, We are incredibly fortunate no one hurt, no buildings damaged and the fire confined to brush areas, no parcel of vines went, just the 150 along the roadway were toasted. Clearly we will have to be vigilant, though. I don’t suppose you’d like to moonlight as a firefighter for the next month or two?

  2. Must have been quite frightening – I’m glad to hear there wasn’t more damage..

    I can see there’s a fair amount of vegetation on the track itself – hot dry weather + steam engines + an overgrown track is a recipe for trouble!

    Might be an idea to pull out the work schedules and add a twice yearly spraying of herbicide on the trackside – would probably only take a few minutes..

    1. Hi Tom. Trust me, Paul himself as well as Alexandre Mariz and Arlindo are putting their heads together on how best to control this risk! Where the bank is so steep, the groundcover helps reduce erosion, so… lots of issues to weigh in the balance.

  3. I don’t know the design of the steam locos used on that track – if there’s no spark trap in the funnel, then hot cinders could set fires some distance from the track; but if the source is ash from the firebox then the risk is very localised to the track itself.

    In that event it might be an idea to erect a low retaining wall to support the bank, and cover it with plants that will not propagate fire.. – Nasturtiums perhaps..

    1. Thanks for these suggestions Tom – interesting re nasturtiums, that bank is normally covered in morning glories, actually. I will make sure the right people see this.

  4. No fire-fighting for me, it’s to dangerous. I’ll stick to my current job LOL

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