August 14, 2022

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Fires in Portugal.  The young man with the sheep on his shoulders is a symbol of the population's struggle with the element

Fires in Portugal. The young man with the sheep on his shoulders is a symbol of the population’s struggle with the element

The Spanish newspaper El Pais described the story of a man who, along with his neighbors and family, helped save people and animals during fires in the Portuguese village of Boa Vista. Paolo Cunha portrayed Joao Paulo Ruevo carrying a sheep on his shoulders. The image became a symbol of the struggle of the population with the element.

Portuguese firefighters have been battling huge fires that have devastated the country for more than a week due to high temperatures (up to 47 degrees Celsius). Portugal has mobilized more than 2,000 firefighters to put out the fires, but the homes of thousands of people are still at risk.

“We were told to run away, we left many things behind”

Among the affected areas is the village of Boa Vista in the Leiria region in the central part of the country. Here a young man is depicted, later identified as Joao Paulo Ruivo.

Photographer Paolo Cunha, who works for the Effie Agency, noticed a 22-year-old with a wounded sheep on his shoulders. The image, which is often circulated on social media, has been described as a symbol of the Portuguese struggle against the fires.

Joao Paulo Ruevo rescues a sheep during a fire in Boa Vista, PortugalPAP / EPA / PAULO CUNHA

Ruivo has so far refrained from contacting the media, but journalists from the Spanish newspaper El Pais were able to speak to him. The diary described that the man had been working in his uncle Antonio’s carpentry shop for three years. El Pais wrote: “Ruivo thought not of fear, but of solidarity.”

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At that time, I was focused on helping others. I do not want to be the main face of these events. It’s not appropriate to be famous for this reason, the firefighters must be famous – Ruivo admitted 48 hours after the accident.

– People think I want this fame and I don’t, it’s not mine. We did work with my colleagues that the firefighters couldn’t do because they couldn’t get everywhere – he explained.

Ruivu noted that saving the animals was not easy. “Behind the fence, they were nervous and couldn’t see very well,” he described. The guys managed to save a flock of 40 goats and 20 sheep. They all found refuge in a carpentry workshop. “In Boa Vista, we reacted like a family,” concluded the 22-year-old.

Portugal is burning. “All it takes is a breath of air, suddenly sparkles, and the fire erupts again.”

“The firefighters were somewhere, but they couldn’t be everywhere,” admitted Antonio Ruivo, Joao Paulo’s uncle. He also took part in the action – like his relative – not feeling like a hero. “When you do that, it’s not out of pride, you just want to help,” he explained.

Main image source: Paulo Cunha / PAP / Environmental Protection Agency