But Algarve remains a high risk region

The extent of the area that has been affected by this year’s forest fires reached 114,942 hectares, around a quarter of last year’s burnt land, according to the General Administration of Forest Resources. Based on a report registering the number of incidences across the country, 19,094 were recorded in this nine-month period, indicating that Faro was the district which suffered most from the flames, with a total of 30,678 hectares of burnt land – Beja, Vila Real and Guarda followed.

Although the largest area affected belongs to the Algarve, the largest number of incidences occurred in the north of Portugal, namely in Braga (618), Porto (531) and Viseu (469). Between June 1 and August 8, the total number of fires was 2,463, corresponding to the largest burnt area, 102,618 hectares. According to the average values from the last five years, this year’s number of incidences is lower, as well as a smaller area of burnt land (less than 60,782 hectares).

The Algarve’s so-called ‘Fire Risk Card’ could be amended, following discussions between the Minister for Internal Affairs, Daniel Sanches, and civil governors from all over the country. In future, a great swathe of the region could be considered a ‘High Risk Zone’, a development that would lead to more resources and equipment for the area.

The decisions to re-evaluate the risk criteria follows devastating forest fires two years in succession and repeated requests for assistance from local authorities. The Faro Civil Governor did not confirm that this would be one of the measures taken by the new Ministry, but he did imply ‘improvements’ in this area. During the meeting, an evaluation was made about recent fires and future fire prevention.

“Several questions were discussed about the fires, but also linked to other areas, like the health and environment,” said Valentim Rosado. Important questions about re-forestation were also discussed. Among other possible measures will be the creation of more ‘rural condominiums’, rather than isolated homesteads, in the heart of forestry areas and new strategies for civil protection and public safety.