Authorities’ constant mantra is: do everything possible to avoid fire risks
The latest wave of intense heat has seen authorities redouble their warnings of avoiding fire risks at all costs.
More than 40 municipalities in the districts of Faro (meaning Algarve), Portalegre, Castelo Branco, Santarém and Guarda are at maximum danger of rural fires today, while Portuguese Institute for the Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA) has also another 90 municipalities in the Algarve, Santarém, Portalegre, Castelo Branco, Leiria, Lisbon, Coimbra, Viseu, Guarda, Porto, Aveiro, Viana do Castelo, Braga, Vila Real and Bragança at very high danger.
All other municipalities of the mainland are in ‘high danger of fire’ — and this situation will remain as it is until at least Friday.
Risk evaluation has five levels. Calculations are based on air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and the amount of precipitation in the last 24 hours (which in most areas is zero).
Due to the hot weather forecast for the next few days, the National Emergency and Civil Protection Authority (ANEPC) warned yesterday that on days of very high and maximum fire danger it is forbidden to burn without prior authorisation and communication; use strimmers/ shredders, essentially any kind of land-clearing machinery that could emit random sparks.
Temperature forecasts range from area to area – but in ‘worst affected areas’, like the central Alentejo/ Vale do Tejo, they are expected to reach into the low 40ºCs.
Other areas can find themselves avoiding the worst of the heat. But generally this is going to be a ‘difficult week’ all round – with health authorities issuing advice about wearing hats/ keeping out of the sun in the high periods of heat, drinking water and using sun-screen.
The truth is that Portugal is affected by rural fires every year. The aim always is to keep outbreaks to a minimum. And despite the horrors that have already taken place this summer, nationally the country is registering less hectares devastated by wildfires so far this year than previous years, while firefighter coverage (and availability of fire fighting aircraft) is increased.
It is simply a question of getting through the rest of the summer as ‘collectively conscious’ about risks and good behaviours as possible.