The firefighting device has 11,827 operational personnel this year, more than 500 personnel compared to 2019, supported by 2,664 land and 60 air means, said the Secretary of State for Internal Administration today .

“In the maximum phase of commitment of the device, we even have an increase of about 500 operational compared to the numbers of 2019, that is, we will have 11,827 operational”, revealed Patrícia Gaspar, in the scope of a parliamentary hearing, at the request of the PAN, for provide clarification on land clearing and fire prevention in this exceptional period of covid-19.

The approximately 12,000 operatives include firefighters, forest sappers, the Special Civil Protection Force, the Public Security Police (PSP) and the Republican National Guard (GNR), which will be supported by 2,664 land and 60 air assets that integrate the combat device. forest fires.

Despite the covid-19 pandemic, “at this moment, there is no estimate of a substantial cut in the number of personnel available for response actions,” said the official, referring that the mechanisms for prevention and support for operational decision have been strengthened and the operating device is stabilized.

“We have the main forces that contribute to this operational issue, so the elements that have been confined or affected, and some of them have already returned to service, have not affected the operation of these forces. If everything remains in this pattern, it is not estimated, at this stage, that there may be a significant impact on our capacity in terms of prevention and combat “, reinforced Patrícia Gaspar.

In view of the uncertainty of the evolution of the pandemic in Portugal, the priority is to “bet as much as possible on surveillance”, in the sense of “making the initial attack as strong as possible” in case of fire, coordinating efforts in the most critical areas, including 1,114 parishes identified this year with high fire risk, and at the most critical moments in terms of weather conditions.

“We have to take care of the worst possible scenario, that is, we will hope for the best, preparing for the worst,” said the head of the Internal Administration portfolio.

As a novelty, this year there will be “a national operational directive for surveillance, under the responsibility of GNR, which is in the final approval phase”, said the minister, explaining that the idea is “to reinforce the context of surveillance in order to bridge or strengthen any problems that may be detected “.

“No matter how much we work on mitigation, planning and prevention, zero risk does not exist, it will never exist”, warned Patrícia Gaspar, defending that one can never let one’s guard down against the risk of forest fires, because “this is going to be a war and a permanent struggle, which will have to be carried out every year “, regardless of the pandemic.

Ensuring permanent monitoring of the entire device, the Secretary of State said that this year, until April 14, there were 681 occurrences of fires, compared to the average of 2,760 occurrences recorded in the last decade for this period, and 747 hectares of burnt forest, for an average of 7,233 hectares.

“This year, the situation will be, for now, not worrying”, considered the minister, adding that these are numbers that do not satisfy, but “confer some tranquility”.

As for fuel management, the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF) has already carried out 682 hectares of the 3,500 planned for this year and the installation of the fuel management and interruption bands of the primary network has been ensured on 674 hectares of the planned 2,468 .

In addition, fuel management actions are underway with the use of grazing, 367 hectares of controlled fire were carried out and 216 forested paths were made out of the 1,000 planned this year.

Regarding the pilot projects for fire prevention in protected areas, of the 2,000 hectares planned for 2019 and 2020, 1,130 hectares have already been secured, according to data provided by the Secretary of State for Internal Administration.