Fires up by 110 per cent

According to the environmental engineers’ association, the Núcleo Regional Sul da Associação Portuguesa de Engenheiros do Ambiente (APEA), the number of forest fires across the country has risen by 110 per cent compared to the same period last year.

The association claims that “practically none” of the preventative measures recommended by the government in its Livro Branco de Incêndios Florestais have been actioned and confirmed that “ironically, it was one of these measures that caused the scenes of desolation that we are currently helping to clear in the Algarve”.

The association is referring to the government comissioned map showing areas of high risk, the Carta de Risco de Incêndios, saying: “The Algarve was not included on the map as an area of high risk.” This is a problem because, according to the association, “the best form of fighting forest fires is prevention” and the government’s failure to recognise the Algarve’s high risk status meant that there was no increase in the number of forest guards and watch towers in the region.

The engineers have also called for a satellite surveillance system to be implemented and for landowners to be forced to clear their property of brush and fallen timber. The APEA also believes that it is necessary for the region to acquire better fire-fighting equipment and training, especially for the bombeiros corps working in the interior of the Algarve, “who lend all their goodwill and strength to fighting the war against fires in their area, but who lack knowledge and training”.

Finally, the association believes that a new system of communication and co-ordination for fire-fighting forces needs to be implemented, so that bombeiros can work more effectively to fight blazes.