Forest fires have consumed more than 442,000 hectares this year, the worst year ever in Portugal, according to the Institute of Nature Conservation and Forests (ICNF).
The last report of the ICNF, which analyses the data between January 1 and October 31, indicates that 442,418 hectares of forest land have burned in Portugal, half of which in October (223,901 hectares).
The ICNF figures, however, fall short of the 563,000 hectares indicated in the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) estimates.
As for large fires – when the total area affected is equal to or greater than 100 hectares – until October 31, 214 fires of this category were registered, which were responsible for 412,781 hectares of forest areas, about 93% of the total area burned out.
The ICNF report indicates a total of 16,981 occurrences (3,653 forest fires and 13,328 hot flushes), with 264,951 hectares of stands and 177,467 hectares of burning forest.
Up to October 31, 2017 there are 1,446 re-registrations, 8% less than the annual average of the last 10 years.
According to the ICNF, the district of Coimbra was the most affected, with a quarter (113,839 hectares) of the total area burned nationally.
After Coimbra, the district of Guarda appears, with 60,038 hectares of fire (14% of the total) and Castelo Branco, with 52,721 hectares (12% of the total).
As for the number of occurrences, and in descending order, the districts of Porto (4,336), Braga (1,743) and Viseu (1,698) were the ones that register the most.
“In any case, the occurrences are mostly hot flushes, that is, small occurrences that do not exceed 1 hectare of burned area. In the specific case of the Porto district, the percentage of hot flushes is 87%,” the report said.
As for the largest fires in terms of burned area, at the top of the list appears the one that originated on October 15 in Seia / Sandomil, in Guarda district, which destroyed 43,191 hectares, followed by the same day in Lousã / Vilarinho ( Coimbra), which burned 35,806 hectares.
With regard to the National Network of Protected Areas (RNAP), it is estimated that 39,388 hectares of forest areas have been burned (5.5%). It stands out the Natural Park of Serra da Estrela by the greater extent of area burned to date (19,337 hectares, about 21.7% of the total area of the park).
The protected area most affected by its extension was the Natural Monument of Portas de Ródão, with almost 72% of the total area destroyed.
As for the land under the forest regime, an estimated 73,190 hectares (about 18.4%) have been burned. According to the report, the Cambarinho Botanic Reserve was totally consumed, in the northern slope of Serra do Caramulo.
The ICNF also highlights the National Forest of Leiria by the largest surface area, with almost 9,476 hectares destroyed (86% of the total).
From the analysis of the daily severity index (DSR) accumulated until October 31, 2017 is the most severe year of the last 15, with values similar to 2005, which had hitherto been the most severe.
The firefighting operation was extended until November 15, following adverse weather forecasts and maintenance of the high risk of forest fires.
The operating period of the 72 GNR watch stations was also extended until November 15, with the maintenance force of the Forestry Information Maintenance and Exploitation Teams (EMEIF) maintained by each District Relief Operations Command.