GNR GIPs - teams specially trained to go into fires for special intervention

Fire risk in Portugal today 40% more than in 2022

Authorities ratchet-up fire prevention awareness ahead ahead of predicted ‘scorcher’ of a summer

The risk of wildfires in Portugal as of today, the very beginning of spring, is roughly 40% up on risks existing exactly a year ago.

In spite of the rain that fell during winter, indicators show risks have increased – and meteorologists are already pointing to a hotter summer this year, than the summer of 2022.

Minister for Interior Administration José Luís Carneiro has been meeting today with GNR in Monte Redondo, Leiria municipality to hear how the Safe Forest campaign is going.

Safe Forest (Campanha Floresta Segura) involves making sure landowners get their land in order (pruning overgrowth/ clearing as much combustible material as possible).

The minister admitted his warnings today dovetail with those sounded by the European Commission yesterday: authorities want citizens prepared, in a bid to reduce the annual toll of wildfires that habitually cause so much economic/ environmental damage.

As he stressed today, Portugal’s ability to respond to fires is widely-respected (witness the team that went out to Chile recently, to help with devastating fires in the interior).  Around 90% of all occurrences are extinguished within the first 90 minutes following ignition, said José Luís Carneiro.

It’s when that ‘window of early opportunity’ closes that the damages really start – like in Serra da Estrela last summer, where wildfires raged for almost two weeks, destroying centuries of heritage landscape, some of which may never be recovered.

One of a series of extraordinary photographs to come out of the Serra da Estrela blaze last summer. Image: Nuno André Ferreira / Lusa

Thus the time has come (again) for authorities to make homeowners everywhere aware of the need to clear around their properties/ prune trees, ensure no growth could put homes at heightened risk.

Northern areas of Viana do Castelo, Porto municipality interior (Montalegre/ Vila Real) are all areas where there is a history of forest fires, even at this time of year, thus focus is on explaining to populations that the terrible fires in those areas of five years ago could happen again, in 2023, due to the time that everything has had to regrow.

The minister has also heard how 85% of the 10,958 ‘occurrences’ last year took place within 500 metres of infrastructure (whether homes or businesses) – meaning the fire risk can only be reduced through collective effort.

“From central administration, the Government, municipalities, owners and each one of us. It is for this objective and for this awareness that I am meeting with the GNR today”, José Luís Carneiro concluded. “It is important that each one fulfills his or her mission. It is not enough, when we are confronted with fires to ask the Minister of Internal Administration to be accountable. It is very important that everyone contributes to a safer country”.

Extolling on Portugal’s reputation as a country that knows how to deal with forest fires, he added that climate change and circumstances mean authorities are constantly having to learn and adapt. In this, he particularly referred to the deaths of 25 firemen and civilians in Chile earlier this year. Chile also is recognised as a country with “very qualified competences” when it comes to firefighting, yet even this sometimes is not enough.

Source material : LUSA.