Wildfires: property owners told to keep “50-metre safety zone” around their homes

Increased efforts to keep the Algarve’s forests tidy and free of brushwood have resulted in a lower number of wildfires in the region this year, according to the head of Faro’s civil protection services.

“Though a large number of fires is still registered, this year’s drop has been considerable and I believe this is due to stronger vigilance and awareness,” Vítor Vaz Pinto told Lusa news agency, without specifying how many fires have been recorded so far.

Municipalities and authorities such as the police and firefighters have been working together to alert property owners to the importance of keeping the perimeter around their homes “neat and tidy” to lower the risk of fires, he said.

“People must be aware of the risks they are exposed to. This is the only way to avert the abnormal number of fires at this time of year,” Vaz Pinto said.

In the Algarve’s 16 boroughs, efforts are in place to keep trails and roadsides tidy and encourage property owners to “voluntarily clear the land near their homes”.

The Monchique borough, one of the most vulnerable for wildfires, has been particularly active in these attempts.

Mayor Rui André said property owners have been informed of their “obligation to keep a 50-metre safety zone around their home which has led to a significant decrease in fires in the municipality”.

“If people do not respect this, they will be fined,” the mayor said.

But the good news is the initiative has been “well received” by the population and has seen most property owners complying.

In Silves, fire prevention plans have also had a “high success rate”, with the number of fires also down compared to previous years.

Elsewhere, teams of ‘fire spotters’ have been set up to allow authorities to detect fires earlier and hopefully put them out faster.

Since July 1, teams have been reinforced with around 25 members of the Portuguese Army who will continue to offer assistance until the end of the critical fire season (around the end of September).

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