Forest Fires

The Threat

Forest fires are one of the most serious natural disasters in Portugal, not only because of the high frequency with which they occur and the extent they reach, but also because of the destructive effects they cause. In addition to economic and environmental damage, they can be a source of danger to people and property.

In 2017 (as at October) some 100 died as a result of fires that took place in June and October. Over 250,000 hectares of land has been burned and people have lost their homes and business affected.

On average each year some 110,000 hectares are destroyed by fires most caused through negligence. 2003 was a record year in terms of area burned in mainland Portugal: about 425,716 ha. Such negligence takes many forms in particular; cleaning land by fire during the critical fire period (normally 1st July to 30th September each year); not taking proper precautions when cleaning of land is permitted and other negligence acts such as discarding cigarette ends. It is estimated that over 90% of fires are caused through negligence.

The spread of a fire depends on weather conditions (wind direction and intensity, relative air humidity, temperature), degree of dryness and type of vegetation cover, terrain, access to the fire site, time of intervention (time Between the alert and the first intervention in the fire attack, commonly referred to as the initial attack), etc.

In addition unfortunately some of the largest fires, including the Madeira and Monchique fires in 2015, were the work of arsonists. The Judicial Police have arrested in 2017 over 80 persons for forest fire crimes.


The main responsibility of the community is to take preventative steps to avoid starting a fire in the first place. This means cleaning land around your property, as well as avoid inadvertently starting a fire by, for instance, dropping a lighted cigarette, or lighting a BBQ in the countryside during the critical fire period or when the fire risk is “very high” or “extreme”. The Critical Fire Period for 2017 ran from 22nd June to 31st October in view of the very dry and hot weather conditions.

We have produced a comprehensive guide entitled “Definitive Guide to Forest Fire Protection and Land Cleaning” which can be downloaded here.

We have advice on protecting your home against fires in both English and French below.

Being aware

Fires cannot be lit in the rural areas when the fire risk is “very high” or “extreme”. The Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera (IPMA) has a system of fire risk levels ranging from Green (low risk) to dark red/brown (extreme risk). By checking their website the level in each municipality throughout the country can be found. However within municipalities, which can be quite large, the risk may vary depending on temperature, humidity and wind conditions. If you are intending to burn your land you should check the local Bombeiros first.

During the summer perioid it  is important to keep up to date where there are forest fires to avoid straying into the areas affected. The best way to do this is to check the ANPC (National Civil Protection Authority) website.

If you are affected by a forest fire

If unfortunately you do become threatened by a fire it is essential that proper steps are taken to reduce the risk to you, your family and property. Please see the official ANPC advice in our downloads below.

Aftermath of fires

There is also a practical guide for people who have been affected by forest fires in Portugal issued by the Centro e a Direção-Geral da Saúde (DGS) in Portuguese  that can be downloaded here.

All prevention and protection information is from official sources

Special Forest Fire Combat Prevention Plan 2017

On 12th April 2017 the Government announced the Special Forest Fire Combat plan DECIF 2017. The plan presented by the ANPC can be download below.

Resource Centre Downloads

  • Bombeiros District and Regional Full Contact ListDownload
  • Fire Prevention in Critical Fire period or outside the period when the risk is very high - extreme docxDownload
  • Cleaning of land - non-compliance by neighboursDownload
  • Burning of Rubbish and fires outside Crictical Fire PeriodDownload
  • Fire Safety in Rural Areas for TouristsDownload
  • Portugal without fires - Fearure for Algarve Resident May 2015Download
  • Manual de Gestao combustivel_- AFNDownload
  • Whats in the mind of a forest fire arsonistDownload
  • Forest Fire Protection (In English)Download
  • Portugal without fires depends on everyoneDownload
  • Protection de votre maison contre les incendires de forêtDownload
  • DECIF 2017 ANPCDownload
  • Burning debris - Precautions to takeDownload
  • Use of BBQs during the Critical Fire PeriodDownload
  • Hinweise zu Waldbränden für TouristenDownload
  • Sécurité incendie pour les touristes en zones ruralesDownload
  • Proteja a sua casa dos Incendios FlorestaisDownload
  • Protecting your house against wildfiresDownload
  • Prohibited access to Forest and special areas during Critical Fire PeriodDownload
  • Exposure to smoke from Forest FiresDownload
  • Government Joint Order Calamity StatementDownload
  • Forest Fire Calamity situation - Restrictions and actionsDownload
  • Aviso_populacao_perigo_incendio_rural_2017-11-16Download