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Wild fire danger – land clearance

Dear Editor,

At this time of year, this is a very important issue and many articles have been published about the need for action. Indeed, there was a major feature on the back page of the Resident last week about this issue.

Apparently, according to this article, “there is an obligation for property owners to keep a 50 metre safety zone around their homes”. This is clearly sensible advice but it assumes that one owns the relevant land.

In our case, we have a very large plot and our house is at the top end, some 10 metres from the boundary wall. We do not own the adjoining land. In order to obtain sensible clearance of this land, we have done the round of all the relevant State Agencies: Civil Protection, ICFC (Forestry) and the GNR on numerous occasions but only with limited success.

The ICFC/GNR instructed the owner of the land (who lives elsewhere) to clear all the undergrowth between the trees along our boundary – leaving a five metre gap between trees. In the event a bulldozer arrived on site and stripped everything which was then left in three enormous piles –some five metres high and five metres in diameter. The nearest pile, in particular, was only 20 metres from our boundary wall and less than 30 metres from the house.

After a further round of all the agencies and discussions with other Algarve organisations, the bulldozer reappeared. All of the broken down trees/undergrowth were amalgamated into one gigantic pile – 20 metres or so long and five metres high – further up the hill and adjoining the track to our house. This pile is directly under the suspended EDP power cable to the house.

The only comment from the bulldozer driver (presumably contracted to do the work) was that it was OK where it was and that “if there is a fire, it will be easier for the Bombeiros to get to it”.

This latest expanded pile is only some 20-25 metres from our boundary wall and the pile of timber etc. if ignited would cause a massive blaze which, if fanned by a wind, could easily reach our property.

This is not a satisfactory situation but, to date, we cannot achieve any further action. Under Portuguese Law, we cannot go on to the adjoining land to deal with the problem. Any suggestions would be gratefully received.