Antonio Patrao with the Portuguese Forest Services and the Institute of Interdisciplinary Research at the University of Coimbra, spoke during this morning's education session time slot. Forest fires represent the main natural risk in Portugal, with forests making up about 35% of the land surface in the country, followed by shrublands making up another 28%. Portugal suffers from about 20,000 ignitions a year, 95% of which are human caused. Since the 2003 and 2005 extreme wildfire seasons which consumed more than 1.2 million hectare and cost about 1 billion Euros per year, measures were taken to examine current strategies and plan for future changes that would be necessary to manage the wildfire issue.
The main findings were that prevention, mitigation and preparedness in advance of wildfires as well as rehabilitation of the environment and communities following a wildfire were two of the most important changes or resolutions that the country looked to make. They are working toward this goal now, but realize that involving the communities will be much more helpful than relying solely on fire service and governmental authorities to manage the whole problem.
It was interesting to hear about how another country, like Portugal, is working to tackle the wildfire issue in their area, and to see that the things they have found to be paths to success are some of the very same things we here in the U.S. believe to be helpful. We look forward to hearing more updates from Portugal in th future!