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More than 7 thousand hectares have burned in Portugal since the beginning of the year


In the first 11 days of April, 43 hectares more burned than in the entire same month in 2022. The most frequent causes of fires in 2023 so far are burns.

Portugal has already recorded more than 7,000 hectares (ha) of burned area due to forest fires in 2023, according to provisional data from the Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests (ICNF) released this Thursday.

ICNF data are recorded from January 1 to last Tuesday and indicate that, out of a total of 1,971 rural fires, 7,366 ha of burned area resulted, including settlements (1,826 ha), bushes (5,454 ha) and agriculture (86 ha).

Comparing this year’s figures with those of the last 10 years, the ICNF points out that more than 12% of rural fires and more than 48% of burned area were recorded in relation to the annual average for the period.

“The year 2023 presents, until April 11, the 5th highest value in number of fires and the 5th highest value of burned area since 2013”, reads in the report.

In just 11 days in April, 43 ha more burned than in the entire same month last year.

In April of this year, until last Tuesday, 1,208 ha were burned, while in the same month – in 30 days – for the last year, 1,165 ha of burned area were registered.

Removing April from the equation, in the first three months of the year, 6,158 ha of burned areas were counted, 1,986 ha less than those verified in 2022 in the same period.

The ICNF explains that 73% of all rural fires that have occurred so far in 2023 are small, with a burned area of ​​less than 1 ha.

So far, February is the month with the highest number of rural fires, with a total of 1,025 fires, corresponding to 52% of the total number recorded in the year.

February is also the month with the largest burned area, with a total of 5,200 ha burned, which is equivalent to 71% of the total burned area in 2023.

Regarding the larger fires, the body that ensures the implementation of policies for the conservation of nature and forests found 13 fires with a burned area of ​​between 100 and 1,000 ha.

“Until April 11, 2023, there were 12 fires falling under this category, which resulted in 1,898 hectares of burned area, about 26% of the total burned area”, he highlights.

Of the total of 1,971 rural fires that occurred this year, 1,264 were investigated and have the cause investigation process completed – 64% of the total number of fires responsible for 79% of the total burned area.

According to the ICNF, the most frequent causes of fires in 2023 are burning for pasture management for cattle (30%) and burning of forest or agricultural remnants (28%).

“Together, the various types of fires and burns represent 79% of the total causes determined. Rekindles represent 3% of the total number of causes investigated”, he underlines.

Analysing by district, the ICNF highlighted Porto (319), Braga (314) and Viana do Castelo as the ones with the highest number of fires, indicating that “they are mostly small in size”, not exceeding one hectare of burned area.

In relation to the district of Porto, the percentage of fires with less than one hectare of burned area is 87%.

With regard to the burned area, the most affected district is Braga with 2,258 ha, about 31% of the total burned area, followed by Vila Real with 1,702 hectares (23% of the total) and Viana do Castelo with 1,361 hectares (18% of the total).

Examining the meteorological severity, the ICNF reached a total value of “weighted burned area” this year of 4,618 ha, translating the “total burned area that would be obtained if all fires followed the historical average ‘behaviour’ in view of the meteorological severity of the day /place where they occurred”.

The real burned area value of 7,366 ha corresponds to 160% of the “weighted burned area”, which means that the burned area this year is “considerably higher than the ‘expected’ burned area taking into account the meteorological severity verified”.