Re: Letter “Fire prevention and verges/hedgerows”

Dear Editor,

I would like to thank your correspondent J.H. Paderne for raising this matter and sharing his experience concerning this important subject. His point is well made. I have referred this to, and have contacted, the GNR and ICNF as it is necessary for this to be clarified and, in JH’s case, effective action taken by the authorities concerned.

From this approach, I have been informed that last week the GNR have re-visited the site and, as a result, they are currently taking specific action. It is anticipated, therefore, that this situation should be resolved very soon.

Complaints against landowners who fail to clean their land should be made to the GNR in areas which they cover. They will contact the owner, investigate and where they confirm that the land needs cleaning, they will direct the owner to do so. This can be accompanied by a fine.

After the land is cleaned, a check is made to ensure it no longer presents a risk, should any fire break out, of affecting neighbouring properties. A grey area does exist however, as in JH’s case, where land has been cleaned but debris left in piles too close to neighbouring properties. 

There are many cases, however, where the owner cannot be located or contacted, or the owner cannot be identified. These are far more difficult and, in these situations, the GNR refer this to the local Mayor (the local civil protection unit) to decide what action can be taken. I understand land can be cleaned by councils themselves and the owner charged accordingly.

Concerning the issue of verges/hedgerows, I agree with JH’s observations. However, it is not possible to generalise as in some areas of the central Algarve effective action has been taken by the councils earlier this year, but in others it has not.

This is the responsibility of the local municipal council, who prioritise accordingly and action taken given their availability of resources. In such cases, I would suggest to send a letter/email to the council concerned with an accompanying photo where possible, to ensure they are aware of the situation, requesting action to be taken where a risk is confirmed.

David Thomas
President, Safe Communities Portugal