Forest fires down by half

Forest fires have destroyed 15,957 hectares in Portugal this year, representing a 57% decrease compared to the same period last year, according to a report by ICNF, the institute for nature and forest conservation.

A total of 5,489 fires were registered between January 1 and July 15, which was nearly half of the blazes in 2012 during these same months, numbering 11,167.

The biggest fire of the year took place in the municipality of Alfândega da Fé, in the Bragança district, on July 9, and is believed to have burnt down more than 13,000 hectares of land, of which 8,936 were forest areas.

The districts most affected by these disasters were Porto (1,610), Braga (529) and Aveiro (490), most of which were, however, limited to small occurrences which did not affect more than one hectare.

Once again, Bragança in the north is mentioned for negative reasons – it is the region that registered the highest number of hectares burnt, 97% of which was due to the devastating Alfândega da Fé fire.

The report stresses the low number of fires registered until June, which are below the monthly averages of the last 10 years, due to the abundance of rain and the cooler temperatures in spring. Weather experts say it was the coldest spring since 1993.

However, the first 15 days of July went against this tendency and were above the 10-year average, making it the month that registered the highest number of fires and burnt hectares.