Protect your house from rural fires by cleaning your land. Includes how to undertake safe burning of debris, and protection ranges.
Refers to critical fire period; levels of fire risk; laws on lighting of campfires; use of fireworks; and advice for tourists.
Know what to do should a fire break out. Government advice should a fire threaten your home. Monitoring fires.
The laws can be quite complicated and are being updated. Check the laws here as well as other Government directives.

Rural Fires

The Threat

Rural 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 520,000 hectares of forest, shrub, natural pasture and agricultural  land has been burned and people have lost their homes and business affected.

Due this steps have been put in place with revised legislation;, included in which is that is mandatory for land owners to take steps to manage their land to protect their properties against rural fires by 15th March 2018 as shown in the drawing above.

The law states: “During the year 2018, the work defined in number 2 of article 15 of Decree-Law no. 124/2006, of 28 June, must occur up to 15 March, in its current version, regardless of the existence or approval of a Municipal Plan Forest Protection against Fire (PMDFCI).

Following the Fires in 2017 the Government revised Decree Law 124/2006 by introducing a new law 76/2017 August 17th where most of the current legislation can be found.

During the year 2018, the fines referred to Article 38 of Decree-Law No. 124/2006, of June 28, in its current version, are increased to its double.

Until May 31, 2018, the Municipalities must ensure the completion of all works and should replace the owners and other non-compliant forest producers, by undertaking fuel management provided by law, by means of a communication and, in the absence of a reply within five days, by posting on the work places”.

The extreme consequences of fires in the territory, together with changes in climatic conditions, have highlighted the need to increase the safety of populations and their property by clarifying the criteria for managing vegetation. These are clarified in Decree-Law no 10/2018 of 14th June. 

Why this is necessary

On average each year some 110,000 hectares are destroyed by fires most caused through negligence. Before 2017, 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 burning 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 and deliberately.

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 23rd November in view of the very dry and hot weather conditions, but this will likely change in 2018.

Each year Safe Communities publishes a comprehensive guide to Rural Fire Prevention and land cleaning: The current one for 2018 and previous ones can be downloaded below:

Definitive Guide to Rural Fire Prevention and Land Cleaning 2018 (Updated)

Definitive Guide to Rural Fire Protection and Land Cleaning – Current 2018

Definitive Guide to Forest Fire Prevention and Land Cleaning – 2017

Portugal without Fire – A Definitive Guide – 2016

Guide to Forest fire prevention and Protection World Civil Protection Day -2015

Guide to Forest Fires Prevention and Protection Campaign – 2014.

Decree Law 124/2006  of 28th June in Portuguese concerning the Nation Forest Fire Protection System (which includes land cleaning) was extensively revised in 2017 and the revised version can be  downloaded here. Please note in particular Aricle 15.

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

Role of ICNF
The Institute of Conservation of Nature and Forests, ICNF is a public institute integrated in the indirect administration of the State, endowed with administrative, financial and own autonomy. Mission and attributions of the ICNF,  Decree-Law no. 135/2012, of June 29.
ICNF, IP’s mission is to propose, monitor and ensure the implementation of nature conservation and forest policies, aiming at the conservation, sustainable use, valorisation, enjoyment and public recognition of the natural heritage, promoting the sustainable development of forestry and associated resources, to promote the competitiveness of forest ranks, to ensure structural prevention within the framework of concerted planning and action in the field of forest protection and hunting and aquaculture resources of inland waters and other directly associated with forestry and forestry activities.

One specific role is: To act in accordance with the responsibilities set forth in the National Forest Fire Protection System (SNDFCI) and in accordance with the National Forest Fire Protection Plan (PNDFCI), namely coordinating structural prevention actions in the areas of awareness raising, planning , organisation of the forest territory, forestry and infrastructure, as well as ensuring coordination and management of the forest sapper program.

General indicators of rural fires for the current year, obtained from the Forest Fire Information Management System (SGIF) can be found by clicking on the tabs to the right of this page.

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
  • Prohibited access to Forest and special areas during Critical Fire PeriodDownload
  • Exposure to smoke from Forest FiresDownload
  • Government Joint Order Calamity Statement 2017Download
  • Forest Fire Calamity situation - Restrictions and actionsDownload
  • Aviso_populacao_perigo_incendio_rural_2017-11-16Download
  • Protecting your house against wildfires 2018 Update pdfDownload
  • Protecting your house against Forest Fires ICNF EnglishDownload
  • Protect your House against Rural Fires ICNF Poster v 2018 EnglishDownload
  • Proteja a sua Casa dos Incendios Rurais v 2018Download
  • Protecting your house against Forest Fires ICNF EnglishDownload
  • How to do a controlled burn of Heaped Materiqals Safely ICNF v 2018Download
  • List of Prioritiy Parishes Inspections Land CleaningDownload
  • ICNF Application Form Cutting down Cork anf Holm Oak TreesDownload
  • ICNF Application Form pruning branches Cork treesDownload
  • A Definitive Guide to Rural Fire Prevention and Land Cleaning 2018 (Update)Download
  • Algarve Contacts ListDownload