A third of the forest fires recorded this year and investigated were caused by extensive burnings and burning of cut and piled debris, reveals the latest report from the Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests (ICNF).
The interim rural fire report for the period from 1 January to 15 October indicates that, to date, the most frequent causes in 2019 are “arson – attributable” (29%) and “burning of forest surplus together with burning of cut and piled debris which amount to 33% of the causes found.
The ICNF also states that re-ignitions of fires represent 10% of all causes found, lower than the average of the previous 10 years.
According to the agency, up to 15 October, 80% of rural fires were investigated, allowing the investigation to assign a cause to 65% of the fires.
The report notes that between January 1 and October 15, 2019, there were 10,841 rural fires resulting in 41,622 hectares (ha) of burned area, including forrest (21,163 ha), bush (15,782 ha) and agricultural area. (4,677 ha).
Data show that the number of fires and burned area in Portugal has declined this year for the second year in a row, the first time since 2009.
“Comparing the figures for 2019 with the history of the previous 10 years, it is noted that there were 46% fewer rural fires and 70% less burned area than the annual average of the period. The year 2019 presents, by October 15, the second smallest number of fires and the second smallest burnt area”.
ICNF also points out that September was the month with the highest number of rural fires (2,344), accounting for 22% of the total number recorded this year.
July was the month with the largest burned area this year, with 14,034 hectares (34% of this year’s total burned area).
According to the ICNF, 85% of the fires that started a burned area of less than one hectare by October 15, and so far there have been two fires with a burned area greater than or equal to 1,000 hectares.
The fire that occurred on July 20 in the municipality of Vila de Rei, in the district of Castelo Branco, was the largest in terms of burned area – 9,249 hectares, followed by the fire that occurred in the municipality of Águeda (Aveiro), with 1,633 hectares.
The ICNF points out that up to 15 October there were 62 “major fires”, namely those of a burned air of 100 hectares or more.
The ICNF also indicates that the largest number of fires occurred in the districts of Porto (1,843), Aveiro (924) and Braga (912), but most of them were small and do not exceed one hectare of burned area.