According to Ana Abrunhosa, with the delivery of these two houses, the process of five reconstructions that the Government supported with funds from the State Budget in the municipality of Arouca, district of Aveiro, is concluded.
The Government thus supported partial arrangements in three houses, with an overall expenditure of 45,500 Euros, and complete requalifications of two other residences, with a total cost of 232,000 Euros.
This morning, the minister handed over the keys to the houses that have been completely re-qualified, stating that, although this gesture stems from an unfortunate event, it also constitutes "a moment to turn the page" in the lives of those families who, for almost three years, had to share the house of relatives or occupy spaces provided by the parish councils.
Ana Abrunhosa guaranteed that the intervention properties now have "better conditions" than they had in 2017, but stressed that only with safety behaviours will it be possible to avoid further destruction in an eminently forested territory.
"What we see is the need for people to protect and clean the [surroundings of] their homes, which is a permanent effort by families and municipalities," she said.
The minister acknowledged that, next to the houses now recovered, in the parishes of Fermedo and São Miguel do Mato, the vegetation of the surrounding land is trimmed, but insisted that "cleaning must be a concern for people" and that, "when they can't do it, they have to ask for help".
The mayor of Arouca, Margarida Belém, also called for this collective care in the management of the forest area, not least because the fires of 15 October, 2017 are particularly vivid in her memory.
"Today we are closing a very painful process, motivated by a fire that started on my first day as president," she recalled.
As for the period of two years and eight months between the destruction of the houses and the completion of the respective restoration, it was the Minister for Territorial Cohesion who explained the delay in the process: it was necessary to "elaborate the [architectural] projects, obtain the agreement [of the owners], find contractors who wanted to do the works, legalise land ownership", etc.
Although the delay in the work was not to her liking, today Júlia Gomes Oliveira was very satisfied with the renovated house, which she is recovering at 93, between the places of Viso and Baloca, in São Miguel do Mato.
The exterior of the building is different - the white painting is recent, the facade is decorated with modest gray vertical bars and on the side part of the stone of the original building is preserved - but the biggest change is in the interior, which now accommodates an additional room for her widowed daughter and now includes a bathroom, previously only available in a separate annex.
"It was worse when it burned. Now it's a beautiful house," says the nonagenarian, who, since in 2017 she was far from home when the fire broke out, says she no longer remembers "how it was".
"But I cried a lot. It burned almost everything," she said.
Maria Oliveira Alves also prefers the house she has now and intends to settle in it within "a day or two", as soon as she can transfer the furniture that, after an initial stay at the home of a relative, she acquired with state support to equip the house provided by the Fermedo Board to the six members of the household: she and her husband, daughter and three grandchildren.
"I have longed for this for a long time. The house was about the same size before, but now it is new and more beautiful. Of everything that happened [because of the fire], this was the best thing that happened", she concluded, in front of the white building that, from the original building, only maintains the ground floor.