The Council of Ministers at a meeting held in Tapada de Mafra, is intended to review the decisions concerning rural fires taken by government on 21st October 2017, one year after its execution, said Prime Minister António Costa at the introduction to the presentation given of the situation of the rural fires of 2018.
The situation was presented by the heads of the Institute of the Sea and the Atmosphere, the Institute of Nature Conservation and Forests, the National Civil Protection Authority and the president of the Mission Structure for the Installation of Integrated Management System of Rural Fire, Tiago Oliveira.
The Prime Minister gave a word of recognition for the work carried out throughout this year by all those who contributed positively to the results achieved in the fight against rural fires.
The president of the Mission Structure for the Installation of Integrated Fire Management System, Tiago Oliveira, recalled that there were profound structural difficulties in the way Portugal addressed the rural fires, and in the course of 2018 there was an improvement, namely the knowledge of these fires, and, above all, a change of direction.
This new course began to take shape in a new model of fire management through the integrated management system involving all stakeholders.
The change has gone through four main axes that have involved changing attitudes and behaviours, training and qualification of the various actors, structural initiatives of prevention and combat, and increased resilience of the territory.
In 2018, the strategy focused primarily on protecting populations, reducing fire outbreaks, managing fuel in hazardous areas, strengthening and pre-positioning means in risk areas and improving decision-making and enhancing qualification.
This strategy involved 72 initiatives with 11 areas of government, the participation of international experts in planning processes, the drawing up of a map of priorities for intervention around the council buildings and a probability map, and the launching of the Agency for the Integrated Management of Rural Fire.
Tiago Oliveira stressed the need for the Portuguese rural landscape to be changed – which is through the reform of the forest approved by the Government – saying that processes of this nature are long and still only one year has passed.
In meteorological terms, a very relevant meteorological severity situation has been observed since the beginning of August, extending over the following months, reaching the highest temperature levels continuously.
There were also very rapid and unpredictable changes in weather conditions and to meet the new needs the IPMA will invest in the network of meteorological radars, in the network of electric discharges, and in the information to the public.
Reduction of combustible materials
The INCF pointed out that the causes of the fires are, in 53%, burning scrubs and dersbris, in 21%, actions of individuals, and in 11%, re-ignitions.
In 2018, compared to the previous 10 years, there were 43% fewer fires (the second year with the lowest number), and 69% fewer fires (the third year with the lowest number).
At the origin of this improvement are the actions of the Plan of Reduction of Ignitions and the campaigns that produced a change of attitude, as well as the increase of the personnel of about 2000 to more than 2700, and the increase of vehicles from 342 to 447.
The National Planco of Fuel Management, also under the responsibility of the ICNF, executed vegetation cuts in 2,500 hectares (1600 ha were foreseen), fuel interruption lanes in more than 1500 km, forest roads in 879 km.
In the area of civil protection, the main objectives defined by the Government were the preservation of human life and national wealth.
This was achieved by a set of measures focused on increased prevention, a robust and rapid initial attack, and the withdrawal of populations from areas at risk.
In 2018, the country had only one big fire (more than 1000 ha), that of Monchique.
The human resources of the system increased by 11% between 2017 and 2018, land means by 12%, and air means by 17%.