The investigation and fight against forest fires are being strengthened by uniting the Portuguese regions of Alentejo and Algarve and the Spanish of Andalusia in a cross-border project worth 24.6 million euro.

The project, called CILIFO – Iberian Center for Research and Fighting Forest Fires, involves 15 institutions and bodies of the Euro region Andalusia-Algarve-Alentejo, as well as specialized agencies, municipalities and universities.

One of the Portuguese partners, the only one in the Alentejo, is the University of Évora, which on 1st July was the venue of the public presentation and the launching of CILIFO.

Research and strengthening of cooperation between universities and civil protection systems in support of forest fire prevention and control in Andalusia and southern Portugal are at the heart of the project, which includes a common research, training and awareness-raising plan to be developed in the three regions, indicated UÉ.

The researcher responsible for the project at UÉ, Rui Salgado, explained to Lusa that CILIFO has a financing of 24.6 million euros, being co-financed at 75% by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) under the Program of Cooperation INTERREG VA Spain-Portugal (POCTEP) 2014-2020.

What triggered the launch of the initiative, whose candidature was approved last year, despite the actions started this year, had to do with the fires and “tragedies” that occurred in Portugal in 2017, he stressed.

Since then, “in Portugal, there have been many entities concerned with fires, they have opened different programs for projects” in this area and “it was created in the public opinion, but also in the institutions the need to intensify the fight” to the fires he said.

But he continued, to that end, “there was a need to improve the investigation, to know better how it is going to be combated, and also to take into account that the current conditions, especially from a climate point of view, are different” nowadays, so that climate change is a variable to be considered “in strategies for the prevention and fight against fires”.

According to Rui Salgado, “a large part of the funding” will be applied to infrastructures, such as the creation of CILIFO, which will be in Huelva, Andalusia, and the “training to combat forest fires of the operational ones”, as well as “in awareness of populations and students to a set of measures they can take “to prevent fires.

CILIFO “also has an important component in the area of ​​research” and this “will be the main work” of the UÉ, through three research centres, he said.

The Institutes of Earth Sciences (with specialists in remote sensing, meteorology and climate) and Agrarian and Mediterranean Environmental Sciences (forest engineering, forest fires and remote sensing) and the Centre for Research in Mathematics and Applications (mathematical modeling of support, particularly fire prevention) are the units.

“Three years is some time, but it is not much,” admitted Rui Salgado, regarding the duration of the project, assuming that, in the end, the goal is for the center to be set up in Huelva, for the network of connections between partners to be extended and that the research to be carried out in the EUS will allow a “qualitative leap” to help “forestall better” forest fires.

The main beneficiary of CILIFO is the Junta de Andalucia. The other Spanish participants are the Andalusian Environment and Water Agency, the State Agency for Scientific Research – Doñana Biological Station, the Once and Finnova foundations, the National Institute for Agricultural Research and Technology and Food and the universities of Cadiz, Córdoba and Huelva.

On the Portuguese side, besides the Alentejo University, the Intermunicipal Community of Algarve and the municipal councils of Castro Marim, Loulé, Monchique and Tavira, in the district of Faro are partners of the project.