Photo: CM Portimão

Wildfires in 2023 have already burnt over 7,000 hectares

Toll already 48% above average, says report by ICNF

Portugal has already recorded more than 7,000 hectares of burnt area due to forest fires in 2023, according to provisional data from the Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests (ICNF) released today.

The ICNF data – counted from January 1 to Tuesday this week (April 11) – indicates that a total of 1,971 rural fires affected 7,366 hectares.

Comparing this year’s figures with those of the last ten years, there were 12% more rural fires affecting 48% more in the way of burnt areas than the annual average for the same period.

“The year 2023 shows, until April 11, the 5th highest number of fires and the 5th highest figure of burnt area, since 2013,” reads the report.

In just the first 11 days of this month, 43 hectares more have burnt than in the whole of the same month last year.

In April this year, until Tuesday this week, 1,208 hectares were burnt, while in the same month – in 30 days – of last year 1,165 hectares of burnt area were recorded.

Taking April out of the equation, in the first three months of the year 6,158 hectares of burnt area were recorded, 1,986 hectares less than in 2022 in the same period.

ICNF explains that 73% of the total rural fires that have occurred so far this year were small, with a burnt area of less than one hectare.

This far, February was the month with the highest number of rural fires (1,025), corresponding to 52% of the total number registered in the year.

February was also the month that had the largest burnt area, with a total of 5,200 hectares burnt, which is equivalent to 71% of the total burnt area in 2023.

Regarding larger fires, the ICNF verified 13 fires with a burnt area of between 100 and 1,000 hectares.

“Until April 11 there were 12 fires falling into this category, which resulted in 1,898 hectares of burnt area, about 26% of the total burnt area,” says the report.

Of the total of number of rural fires that have occurred this year, 1,264 have been investigated and have the process of investigation concluded – 64% of the total number of fires responsible for 79% of the total burnt area.

According to ICNF, the most frequent causes of fires in 2023 are burning for pasture management for livestock (30%) and the burning of forest or agricultural surplus (28%).

“Together, the various types of fires and burning represent 79% of the total causes detected. Reignitions represent 3% of the total of the verified causes”.

Analysing by district, the ICNF highlighted Porto (319), Braga (314) and Viana do Castelo as the areas with the highest number of fires, indicating that “the majority are small”, not exceeding one hectare of burnt area.

Examining meteorological severity, ICNF arrived at a total value of “weighted burnt area” this year of 4,618 hectares, translating the “total burnt area that would be obtained if all fires followed the historical average ‘behaviour’ in relation to the meteorological severity of the day/location where they occurred”.

The value of the real burnt area of 7,366 hectares corresponds to 160% of the “weighted burnt area” – which means that burnt area this year is “considerably higher than the ‘expected’ burnt area, considering the meteorological severity verified”.

Source: LUSA