“We have seen again in the past few days that most fires are preventable. This week, the Vale de Cambra fire started with a barbecue, the Vila Flor fire on Saturday started with agricultural work, other fires were also the result of absolutely avoidable activities ”, said Minister Eduardo Cabrita at the headquarters of the National Emergency and Civil Protection Authority (AENPC), in Carnaxide, Oeiras.
In this sense, it was determined that “all work in rural areas, except for fighting forest fires and guaranteeing the feeding of animals, will be prohibited, at least until midnight next Tuesday”.
Asked about the weather forecasts for the next few days, put forward by the Portuguese Institute of the Sea and the Atmosphere (IPMA), the Minister of Internal Affairs indicated that the National Emergency and Civil Protection Authority is assessing the situation so that the Government can decide on the alert statement.
“The situation is being assessed by ANEPC, taking into account that the IPMA, for Monday and Tuesday, places around 170 municipalities on the continent, that is, almost two thirds of the municipalities on the continent [território continental], at a maximum or very high level of rural fire risk, ”said Eduardo Cabrita, explaining that Civil Protection is assessing the appropriate operational alert levels.
Regarding the alert situation that may be declared by the Government, the Minister of Internal Affairs recalled that “it allows mobilizing resources, exempting all volunteer firefighters from work, putting all entities in the system on a maximum level of readiness and, fundamentally, prohibiting risk activities ”.
“It is not just being advised against, pyrotechnics, agricultural work with machines, the use of fire in the forest are crimes and will be treated as such by the entities with responsibility for surveillance, starting with the National Republican Guard (GNR)”, warned the government official.
According to the IPMA, 54 counties in the interior of the North, Center, Alentejo and Algarve are now at maximum risk of fire, namely municipalities in the districts of Bragança, Guarda, Viseu, Castelo Branco, Leiria, Santarém, Portalegre and Faro.
The districts that currently have the highest number of municipalities at maximum fire risk are Guarda, with 12 (Vila Nova de Foz Côa, Trancoso, Pinhel, Almeida, Fornos de Algodres, Aguiar da Beira, Mêda, Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo , Guarda, Celorico da Beira, Sabugal and Manteigas) and Castelo Branco, with 10 (Belmonte, Covilhã, Penamacor, Fundão, Oleiros, Castelo Branco, Sertã, Vila de Rei, Proença-a-Nova and Vila Velha de Ródão).
At low risk are 31 municipalities in the districts of Braga, Porto, Leiria, Aveiro, Coimbra, Lisbon and Setúbal.
The fire risk is determined by the IPMA and has five levels: maximum, very high, high, moderate and low).
Calculations are obtained from air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and amount of precipitation in the last 24 hours.
Civil Protection on Thursday warned of an increased risk of fire, starting on Friday, to “maximum or very high” levels in the regions of the North, Center, Tagus Valley, Alentejo and Algarve and to “high” in the rest of the continent.
In a warning to the population issued on Thursday, the ANEPC reported on preventive measures, such as the prohibition of unauthorized burning and burning, the use of stoves and grills throughout the countryside, smoking or making any kind of fire in these places, launching lit fuse balloons and rockets. The use of fireworks is only allowed with authorization from the city councils.
Minister highlights “great professionalism” of the combat system
The Minister of Internal Administration today highlighted the “great level of professionalism” of the fire-fighting system, with more than 2,200 fires registered in July, considering that “it is a fight for all Portuguese people”, including in forest management.
“Forest management is a responsibility of all Portuguese people and has to do with a dimension of transformation of the forest that must be continued every day and will take years of intervention. This is the priority ”, declared Eduardo Cabrita.
The Minister of Internal Affairs answered questions about the statements by the Mayor of Oleiros, Fernando Jorge, who said that the fire that broke out on Saturday in this municipality in the district of Castelo Branco is burning in an area that was hit by the 2003 fire , which, meanwhile, “grew wildly and was already a dense and strong pine forest”.
In the perspective of Eduardo Cabrita, forest management “is the great challenge”, indicating that, at this moment, the situation is “truly in the last line of the answer and the priority, that is, the fight”.
“But I always say, throughout the year, that the essential challenge – and it is being done – is the change of the forest, it is the responsibility of everyone, the owners, the agents who work in the forest and, therefore, it is the fight that has to be done throughout the year is certainly not at this time ”, said the head of the Internal Administration portfolio.
The fire that broke out on Saturday in Oleiros and spread to the neighboring municipalities of Sertã and Proença-a-Nova, in the Castelo Branco district, is currently being fought by more than 700 operatives, supported by 14 aerial means and eight tracking machines, informed the Minister of Internal Administration, in remarks to journalists, noting that, “at this moment, the priority is to combat and defend the security of the populations”.
“That is the reason why I tend to say, between October and the following summer, that this theme must continue, registration is essential for the responsible performance of all forest owners, which is decisive, as there are interventions that have taken priority, but that have no results in a short term dimension ”, said Eduardo Cabrita.
In this context, the minister expressed “solidarity with the great level of professionalism and the response of the entire system”.
“Only this has allowed that, with more than 2,200 fires in the month of July, with very difficult weather conditions for about 10 days, until today only peacekeepers have been victims in what are terrible battles in which they are in the front line. But this is a fight for all Portuguese, ”said the Minister of Internal Affairs, thus recalling the death of three firefighters this year in the scope of firefighting.
According to Eduardo Cabrita, there has been a record, in the last few days, of a “very significant” dimension of rural fires, with “an average of 120 fires per day throughout this month of July, especially in the last 10 days”.
On Saturday, there were “123 fires, with the participation of 4,400 operatives and 103 aerial means interventions”, revealed the minister, adding that there were “fires of significant dimension, two in Ponte de Lima, one in Vinhais, another in Vila Flor, which were all dominated at the end of the day or at night ”.
In this sense, the minister stressed the operational capacity, in relation to the more than 2,000 fires that occurred during the month of July, which has allowed “a very high commitment from the device, an immediate response”.
“What is fundamental, in these circumstances, is exactly the recognition of this role that justifies all the investment that must be made in prevention, so that less combat can be used”, maintained Eduardo Cabrita.
(Article updated at 15:06)