Pedrógão Grande fire report – Key findings

João Guerreiro, President of the Independent Technical Commission created to analyse the events that led to the death of 64 people in Pedrógão Grande, presented the Commission’s report to the Assembly of the Republic on Thursday 12th October. Among the findings are:

  • Pedrógão fire caused by electric discharge from power lines and Góis by lightning
  • The commission states that measures could have been taken in the early hours of the fire-fighting to avoid more serious consequences.
  • An early warning could have prevented most of the 64 deaths recorded in the fire. In the item entitled “What could have been different”, it is said that “this absence of early warning, because the fire was not read at 6:00 p.m. (and even earlier), did not allow to prevent most fatalities” .
  • There were flaws in the fire-fighting command and lacked measures that “could have moderated” its effects. “The measures that should have been taken, the responsibility of the command, and immediately after the start of the fire, could have moderated the effects.” –
  • The chairman of the technical committee ruled out any responsibility of the GNR in driving cars to National Road 236, where 30 people died.
  • The “tactical and strategic options” taken during the firefight of Pedrógão Grande contributed to the “catastrophic consequences” of fire.
  • Pedrógão Grande’s fire shows that combat systems “are not prepared” to deal with climate change.
  • The authorities did not have “the perception of the potential gravity of the fire” of Pedrógão Grande, reason why in the initial combat “the means that were available were not mobilized completely”.
  • The current national operational commander of Civil Protection, Albino Tavares, ordered, in the early hours of June 18, the communications operators not to record any more alerts in the tape of the time of the fire of Pedrógão Grande.
  • The excessive presence of authorities and the media at the operational command post (PCO) disrupted the firefighting, along with some lesser experience in command.
  • The main problem of fuel management in the areas devastated in June by the fire of Pedrógão Grande was the non-compliance of the legislation for the secondary network bands.
  • The National Civil Protection Authority’s National Operational Commander (CONAC) should have had “an active presence” during the Pedrógão Grande fire and “kept the call” of this rescue operation.
  • The health centers “are neither prepared nor equipped” to respond to a tragedy such as occurred during the June fires in the Central region.
  • SIRESP is “based on outdated technology” and “obsolete”, having been “notorious for failure” of this system of communications and mobile networks.
  • More than half of the deaths in the fire that began on June 17 in Pedrógão Grande occurred in a space of about 15 minutes.
  • The idea that most forest fires are of criminal origin is “a myth widely spread by the media” and “inadvertently” taken advantage of by some politicians, which has contributed to a “disengagement of society”.
  • The National Forest Fire Protection System is based largely on empirical knowledge, leading to many of the decisions taken on the ground are based on “normally questionable perceptions”, requiring technical knowledge.
  • The creation of an Agency for the Integrated Management of Rural Fire, consisting of units that operate “up to the regional / district level”, is defended in the report of the technical commission.
  • The Armed Forces (FA) “are underutilized” and must be “properly framed” within the scope of the National System of Integrated Management of Rural Fire, namely in the logistical support to combat operations, in the aftermath and in the patrolling. –
  • It is proposed to create a program to promote a forest based on oak, chestnut and other hardwoods.
  • “Portugal without fire depends on all” program is out of order and has had no effect.
  • The National School of Firemen, financed by public money, must be transformed into a professional school and integrated into the national educational system.
  • Portugal has spent about 6,585 million euros in the last 16 years on fires, but only 410 million euros have been invested in prevention. – Since 2000, 165 people died in forest fires, 2017 of which 64 were the deadliest of Pedrógão, the deadliest since it was registered.

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