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Volkswagen Autoeuropa is proud of its toolmakers, Bruno Pereira and Miguel Bastos.

In all their years as volunteer firefighters, Bruno Pereira and Miguel Bastos have had more than a few interesting experiences. But the two Volkswagen employees, who work as toolmakers at the Palmela plant, will never forget the summer of 2017. 40-year-old Pereira and his colleague, who is 16 years his junior, helped fight the devastating forest fires in the center of Portugal. According to authorities, they were the worst fires in over a decade, and dozens of people lost their lives to the flames.

"With the fires all around Vila de Rei, I almost collapsed from exhaustion."

In their volunteer roles, where they have often commuted straight from their jobs at the plant, Pereira and Bastos have sometimes been pushed to their very limits. "With the fires all around Vila de Rei, I almost collapsed from exhaustion. We were working in a very steep and impassable area," reminisces Pereira, who has been a member of the volunteer fire department in Pinhal Novo, around ten kilometers from the Palmela plant, for more than twenty years. The job is not only a physical challenge for the two men, but also extremely mentally demanding. "It’s a terrible feeling of powerlessness, being unable to help all the people and animals," says Miguel Bastos, who received 20 days off from his job at the Volkswagen Autoeuropa plant to help extinguish the fires. It’s not uncommon to have to force residents to leave their homes, explains the toolmaker. "Despite the thick, noxious smoke and the high temperatures, many don’t want to leave their homes and belongings behind."

But the work has its beautiful moments, too. In Vila de Rei, they fought the flames for two hours straight to prevent them fromreaching the town, explains Pereira. "We received a lot of thanks when the residents heard that they could return to their homes." As he and his exhausted colleagues left town after extinguishing the fires, they were applauded.

"We received a lot of thanks."