Portugal´s only registered non-profit crime prevention association providing dedicated information and support services to the community

20 April 2017

I hope you all had a Very Happy Easter, with air temperatures well above normal in many parts of the country. Although good news, such conditions unfortunately increases the  risk of Forest Fires.

During 2016 a total of 13.333 forest fires occurred burning an area of 154,944 hectares. Whereas the number of occurrences was less than 2015, the area burned was over double.

Although there was much media attention to the given to the arrest of arsonists, the causes of forest fires are varied. Most of them have a human origin, either by negligence or accident (burning of rubbish, fireworks, badly erased cigarettes, electric lines, etc.).

In addition many are caused by negligence and/or contravening the law on burning debris or pasture renewal burning during periods when it is not permissible to do so, or not following the various safety regulations.

Fires of natural causes, for instance, lightning strikes, amount to only a small percentage of the total number of occurrences.

So more needs to be done in preventing such fires.

I have pleasure therefore in introducing our "Definitive Guide to Forest Fire Prevention and Land Cleaning", which builds upon our special newsletter issued over the last three years.

The purpose of this guide is to create greater awareness of the cause of forest fires, and what we can all do to prevent these. If we do not we will destroy our environment, as well as placing lives and property at risk, not to mention those who have deal with such incidents sometimes on a huge scale. 

Please share this with others, especially those living in rural areas.

Finally I would like to thank Ibex Insurance, Destination Algarve and Cerro Novo Property Management for sponsoring this newsletter. If you would would like to be part of a community effort to promote crime prevention and public safety, we are pleased to hear from you. Please contact us here.

David Thomas
safe Communities Portugal


Launch of Annual Plan to Combat Forest Fires - 2017

The Secretary of State for Internal Administration, Jorge Gomes, presented on 12th April 2017 the Dispositivo Especial de Combate a Incendios Florestais (DECIF) 2017. The ceremony, which took place in Pegada, parish of Foz de Arouce , Municipality of Lousã, district of Coimbra, included presentations by the ANPC, INCF and GNR. 

The plan lays out the level of resources being made available, as well as training programs and other measures to strengthen its capacity this year.
The main features are:
  • BRAVO Phase - 15th May to 30th June - availability of 6607 personnel, 1514 vehicles, 24 helicopters and 8 fixed wing aircraft.
  • CHARLIE PHASE - Critical Fire Period 1st July to 30th September, 9740 personnel, 2065 vehicles, 39 helicopters and 8 fixed wing aircraft. FOR THE FIRST TIME during this phase, a helicopter will be designated as a coordination helicopter in order to help coordination fire-fighting resources (bird's eye view).
  • DELTA Phase - 1st to 31st October - 5518 personnel, 1307 vehicles 14 helicopters and 8 fixed wing aircraft.
GNR Deployment - During Bravo phase they will man 72 primary observation posts with 144 personnel and in CHARLIE Phase 231 primary and secondary posts with 924 personnel. In addition GNR SEPNA will be deployed carrying out patrols and GIPS (Rescue and combat) will have available 73 personnel in BRAVO Phase and 594 in CHARLIE Phase.
The various stages within the system are: Alfa (January 1 to May 14), Bravo (May 15 to June 30), Charlie (July 1 to September 30), Delta (between 01 and 31 October) and ECHO (November 1 to December 31).

The presentations can be downloaded here.

Improvements for 2017 - DECIF

The DECIF report announced improvements in 5 key areas which are briefly outlined below:

Improvements to the Initial Response During the Fire Critical Period (1 July to 30 September)   - Improvements will be made to the siting of response forces in some (mainly Northern) districts that have had a high incidence of fires and burned areas during the Critical Fire Period (known as Phase Charlie) between 1 July and 30 September each year.

Maximising Command and Control of Forest Fires  - The ANPC utilise Government helicopters for aerial coordination of the response to and fighting of fires. The improvements will be targeted at reducing initial response times for the helicopters.

Improvements to Technical and Operational Training - There will be the implementation of additional technical and operational training actions for nearly 11,000 ANPC personnel involved in fighting fires.

Improvements to Logistical Operations - there will be improvements to the logistical support to the means of reinforcement to fight fires in 2017 and with a logistical capacity of some 1200 personnel.
Improving the Capacity of Fire Aftermath Actions - In order to release ANPC resources to move to new fire incidents or recover from fighting specific fires which need to be monitored for a period of time after the fire, specific training will be given to military platoons of the Amed Forces totalling some 1400 personnel to take over the aftermath role. This will increase the recovery time and ensure greater readiness for new occurrences.

Community funds allow global investment of €50 million in firefighters

The Ministry of Interior announced on 18th April 2017, that there was a global investment of 50 million euros in firefighters, with a community contribution of 45 million.

The MAI states that the sector has made four applications for funds approved in 2015, to 140 applications in the 2016 of which 68 applications were approved, mainly for the expansion and refurbishment of fire brigades, with an overall investment of 29 million euros.

According to a statement from the MAI, in the notice to purchase vehicles for firefighting, also opened in 2016, Sixty nine applications were approved, corresponding to an overall investment of 10 million euros and a contribution of 7.5 million euros.

"Some € 5 million of EU funds are also being invested in the construction of District Commands for Relief Operations and Logistics Support Bases, as well as in the construction of facilities and in the acquisition of vehicles for the Protection and Intervention Group and the Special Fire Brigade of the National Civil Protection Authority (ANPC)".

These contributions, says the MAI, add up to around € 7 million for the creation of forest fire networks. On the other hand, the execution of the projects until December 2017 will allow, in agreement with the MAI, a 10% increase in the amount of the community contribution.

 In May last year, MAI announced two tenders worth € 12 million for the renovation and construction of fire brigades and the acquisition of vehicles.

Meeting with Municipal Operational Commander of Civil Protection Portimã
On 14 April 2017, SCP met with Richard Marques,  Comandante Operacional Municipal, Ser viço Municipal de Proteção Civil de Portimão - he emphasised a number of important points that can make a significant difference to the prevention of and fighting of fires during the Fire Critical Period in particular. 

Firstly, he outlined that the 2010 Directive for fighting fires directs that all means of fire fighting must be despatched after 2 minutes of notification of a forest fire with attendance on scene by these forces within 20 minutes.

In order to help, citizens, residents and tourists witnessing smoke or fires starting should not delay calling 112 and reporting the exact nature and location of the fire. 

In addition, he emphasised that in the run-up to the Critical Fire Period, when residents and citizens have been given permission from the local camera to burn a bonfire after land clearance, that the siting of the bonfire is essential to prevent a fire starting on adjoining rural land and that the bonfire should be started early in the morning rather than later in the day to take advantage of the cooler air and dew. 

April - Higher than usual Air Temperatures throughout Portugal

Although we welcome the improved weather this has consequences in terms of fire risk. Undoubtedly April been a hot month as evidenced by data produced by the IMPA.

Between the 1st and 11th April 2017 the average maximum air temperature throughout the country was 23.Cc which is 5.7C higher than the average maximum in the same period during the years 1971 - 2000.
The highest temperate recorded this year up to 11th April  are: Mora 32.5C; Rio Maior 32.3; and Pegoes 32.3C. There were a further twenty areas where the temperature was over 30C.  
The maximum air temperature map for 17th April as shown by "Centro Meteo" is as follows:

Critical Wildfire Period (Phase Charlie)

This is the period, each year announced by Minister of Agriculture and Sea, where special measures are put in place to prevent forest fires due to exceptional meteorological conditions. During this period usually 1st July to 30th September, and outside the critical period when there is a very high or maximum risk of forest fire you are not allowed in rural areas to:
  • Smoke, make fires or bonfires,
  • Burn agricultural or forest debris
  • Undertake grassland or renewal burning or
  • Operate tractors, machines or heavy transport vehicles that do not have fire extinguishers, spark and ember retention systems or flame dampers in the exhaust pipes or chimneys.
The current legislation, namely DECREE-LAW No. 124/2006, of June 28, modified by Decree-Law No. 17/2009, of January 14, which establishes the measures and actions to be developed within the scope of the National Forest Fire Protection System (SNDFCI) and take special care with:

Burning of debris
It is prohibited to light fires during the "critical period", which is a period defined in a specific Ordinance. See separate item in this newsletter.

During the "critical period", in rural areas, the use of fireworks is subject to prior authorisation from the respective City Hall.

Use of matches and cigarettes
During the "critical period" it is forbidden to make fire of any kind, including smoking, in the forest areas, in the pathways that border or cross them. This also applies outside the "critical period" if the fire risk is very high and maximum level.

Use of strimmers
Although not currently regulated, to avoid the risk of sparks the use of metal cutting blades when cutting, should not be used. Use nylon instead.

It is prohibited in rural areas during the "critical period" to light a fire of any kind, including the provision of campfires for recreation and for food preparation, as well as the use of burning and combustion equipment for lighting and or making food. 

It is prohibited to hold barbecues and picnics in rural areas with the use of fire for cooking or heating food. Suitable authorised spaces should be used, built by local authorities or other institutions, where the use of and all related acts are regulated. The use of cookers and grills is permitted in places duly authorised for this purpose.

Note:  If you live in a rural area you may use your BBQ on your property provided it does not pose a risk to surrounding combustible material/vegetation etc.  For instance if it is brick built, a purpose built unit, or a gas BBQ located in a safe area such as a terrace - a matter of common sense!

Cleaning land by burning

Difference between burning debris and pasture renewal burning

For many of us living in rural areas the disposal of debris from tree cuttings and bushes is a constant challenge. The normal process is to burn these, but in doing so there are a number of laws that dictate when and under what conditions this is possible. Cleaning your land is essential to prevent the spread of fires so understanding the law is essential.

However, sometimes there is confusion concerning between burning debris and pasture renewal burning. It is important to understand the differences because the approval conditions are very different.

Debris burning ( Queima), is used mainly in the cleaning of land before the critical fire period and takes places after bushes, shrubs, tree branches have been cut, gathered together in small piles and then burned. Do not place these piles however under trees.

Pasture renewal burning ( Queimada) is generally for grassland renewal, the burning of stubble and forest debris that are uncut or cut on the ground, but NOT gathered into piles.

Both these types of burning are not permitted during the Critical Fire period, and when the Fire Risk is "Very High" or "Extreme". It is important to note that in addition, pasture renewal burning is also NOT permitted when the fire risk is "HIGH". In other words it is only permitted in Moderate or Low conditions.

Obtaining permission/permit before lighting fires 

Debris burning

If you wish to burn debris in piles outside the critical period or when the wildfire hazard is not very high or maximum, you should telephone your local Bombeiros and obtain permission.

In these cases you need to call them and check whether this permissible given the weather conditions in your area. They will ask you a number of questions such as the date and the time of the burning, what you are intending to burn (items for instance such as tyres and plastics are prohibited).

Burning of large areas - pasture renewal burning

The burning of large areas such as in pasture renewal burning is only permitted after obtaining a permit/permission from the city  council or parish in your area. If it is granted it may need to be conducted in the presence of a certified firefighter or, a team of firefighters. Anyone contravening this is liable for a fine up to € 60,000. You cannot burn when the fire risk if "High", "Very High" or "Extreme" or during the Critical Fire period.
Precautions to be taken when burning fires

The ANPC has provided a comprehensive list of precautions to be taken when burning debris at times when it is permissible to do so. These are for your own safety and that of others.

The precautions to be taken include when and under what conditions fires can be lit and how they should be managed. Specifically it covers issues such as: humidity, air temperature, wind, fuels, avoiding slopes; the gradual feeding of fires; monitoring fires; water supply; utensils to be available and the proper management of the aftermath during the period of extinguishing and beyond.

These very helpful tips will allow fires to be lit and controlled, during periods where it is permitted to do so, without the risk of the fire becoming uncontrolled and threatening your life and property and that of others.

If you are using local farmers and/or contractors to burn debris on your land, ensure that they follow this advice. Do not allow them to set fire to a large area of uncut vegetation, as this requires a licence. If not and a fire develops causing damage to others, as the land owner you may still have some liability.

One good piece of advice from civil protection is to start the fire early in the morning when it is cooler and damper and allows you more time to monitor the fire and prevent any re-ignition late at night.

The full precautions can be downloaded in English here


The work of Safe Communities Portugal in Forest Fire prevention

Safe Communities Portugal's role includes helping to create public awareness in areas such as forest fire prevention and others areas involving civil protection. 

Setting fire to forests, whether deliberately or through negligence, can result in a major disaster with possible loss of life, injury and destruction of infrastructure, land and property. Much of this is preventable.

One of the specific roles of Safe Communities Portugal in such circumstances is to support the work of the authorities such as the  ANPC (Civil Protection Agency), Bombeiros, GNR and other agencies, by helping to disseminate information to all communities and visitors to Portugal through this website, our newsletter and various seminars and displays.The types of information that we disseminate are:
  • Civil protection/IPMA weather warnings and action to take
  • New forest fires and their subsequent development as well as other disasters, such as flooding, plus extreme temperature alerts
  • Forest fire prevention information, in order to create awareness and encourage compliance  
Please visit our Facebook page for updates.

During the last three years we have organised around 10 seminars on Forest Fire prevention and protection in the Algarve plus displays as well as participating in exhibitions. Our focus has been in the main high risk areas such as Tavira, Monchique, Loule and Sao Bras although we have held seminars and participated in events in other areas as well.

The feedback from these events has enabled us to build up an extensive base of information on the Civil Protection section of our website which can be accessed here.

We have around 40 downloads concerning civil protection, available in English and Portuguese and we are starting to expand these in other languages starting with French.

Safe Communities meets regularly with the ANPC at the National Headquarters in Lisbon as well as the Faro Headquarters which covers the Algarve. We have also met with the Civil Protection authorities in Madeira. 

It is through these meetings and the feed-back from the community and we are able to suggest improvements in terms of prevention measures and the publication and dissemination of information. 

In our regular meetings with the ANPC and GNR last year we proposed:
  • Forest fire information for tourists
  • Changes to ANPC website
  • Improved information on the tracking of forest fires available to the public
  • Forest Fire prevention advice available in different languages
We have produced four dedicated newsletters on this subject and each of our regular newsletters includes articles with relevant advice. In addition through the help of KissFm and the media we have been able to to keep the community up to date with news and advice.  

Protecting your house against Forest Fires

The National Forest Authority gives 10 basic steps for the protection of properties in isolated rural areas as follows:
  • Knowing the problem - Managing fuel (combustible) material, in other words, clearing the land in the surrounding area is the best way to protect your house.
  • Define the Protection area. A minimum range of 50 meters (in some cases up to 100 meters for larger buildings) reduces the chances of a fire reaching your property.
  • Reducing the most flammable vegetation.
  • Give priority to a 10 meter watering area around the property and avoid the planting of inflammable vegetation.
  • Thinning and pruning. It is important this is done regularly giving priority to weak or ill trees.
  • Keep the surrounding area cleaned. Do not keep firewood, forest or agricultural debris, or any type of inflammable material within a 50 meter distance to the property, except when kept in separate buildings.
  • Non-flammable pavement area. Keep an area of between 1 and 2 meters of pavement around the building.
  • Unobstructed access. Make a protection area of 10 meters on the vehicular access side of the property so that large emergency vehicles can manoeuvre,
  • Clean the roof and other structures of the house. Remove dried grass, dead leaves, pine needles, and tree branches and moss from the roofing gutters, eaves and in wooden decking.
  • Safety in your house. Place a net for the retention of sparks in the chimney and close any gaps where sparks may enter the interior of your home.
  • Be prepared in case of fire. Store shovels, rakes and hoses in an easily accessible location.
Clearly the management of the 50 -100 meter protection range could be a joint responsibility between you and your neighbours. It is important therefore to discuss this with them and work out a division of responsibility.

It is also important to note that the management of these areas is enforceable by law and there are heavy fines for non-compliance.

These steps are also available in French here.

Non-compliance with fuel management (cleaning of land) provisions - rights of neighbours  

A question often asked is "what can we do as a neighbour if a land owner refuses to clean their land or cannot be contacted to ask them to do this?" 

The law is fairly complex on this subject and readers are strongly advised to initially raise this with your local council requesting that the land should be cleaned. 

The law concerning this is in Decree law 124/2006 - 28th June - Section II - "Life and Property Defence - Secondary Network of Fuel management tracks" i.e. cleaning land. Article 15 provisions 2- 5 as follows apply:

"2. Owners, tenants, users or entities that hold any title to land adjoining buildings, namely
homes, workshops, yards, warehouses, factories and other equipment are required to carry
out the fuel management (land cleaning) within a range of 50m around those buildings or facilities measured from the outside of the building wall, in accordance with standards listed in the annex of the present law decree that it is an integral part.

3. In the event of non-compliance with the provisions of the preceding paragraphs (in Article 15) the local council notifies the entities responsible for the work.

4. Once the non-compliance is verified, the local council can perform the fuel management work with a provision of reimbursement, therefore triggering the necessary mechanisms for 
reimbursement of the expenditure incurred.

Please note: That the original legislation in Portuguese is the approved legal authority and can be  downloaded here .


Monitoring weather conditions

It is particularly important during the summer months in particular to pay attention to weather forecasts and weather warnings. The best way to monitor weather conditions, the fire risk and UV risks are through the IPMA website

The IPMA has in fact made recent changes to its Forest fire risk page with easier to read information relevant to each municipality as well as a table showing what actions are allowed or prohibited during the various risk levels.

Safe Communities Portugal provides on its Civil Protection/ Forest fires page, several links to different sites which also provide useful information related to Forest fires.

Monitoring forest fires through the internet and social media

The ANPC (Civil Protection Agency) is the authority responsible for the coordination for dealing with major emergencies including forest fire outbreaks and the resources involved in firefighting.

All major fires are plotted and information updated regularly. If you wish to check if a major forest fire has broken out, or the progress, then you can do so through this ANPC link.

There are a number of Facebook pages where such information can be found, either those dedicated to this subject disseminating information provided by the ANPC.

During a fire there will of course be much information and photographs that are posted onto Facebook into particular. If not taken from official sources, then there is a need to be cautious until the details are verified. In a major operation coordinated by Civil Protection there are teams that monitor social media and other sources of information and check on the ground or from air in order to confirm or otherwise the information.

It is important to bear in mind that a photo of thick and large bands of smoke may not mean that the fire is heading in the direction where the person took and posted the photo.
It is particularly important during the summer months in particular to pay attention to weather forecasts and weather warnings. The best way to monitor weather conditions, the fire risk and UV risks are through the IPMA website

The IPMA has in fact made recent changes to its Forest fire risk page with easier to read information relevant to each municipality as well as a table showing what actions are allowed or prohibited during the various risk levels.Visit the page here.

Safe Communities Portugal provides on its Civil Protection/ Forest fires page, several links to different sites which also provide useful information related to Forest fires.

Association for Forest Fire Alerts - Donations to help Firefighting

Without stating the obvious, firefighting is both dangerous and extremely physically demanding work. When the fires in Monchique broke out in 2016, the night time air temperature was around 30C and the humidity was was exceptionally low at around 10%. Firefighters worked in the most hazardous conditions and for long hours.

To avoid dehydration the emergency services must have adequate supplies of drinking water.

An excellent service exists through AAiF - Association for Forest Fire Alerts, to help supply the items, especially water required by fire-fighting personnel. Their objective is to ensure that all fire stations are properly supplied before the main fire period. 

To do this they need your help through donations for the voluntary Bombeiros and the supply of bottled water.

AAiF can be contacted at   bombeirosalgarve@gmail.com and their work can be monitored on their Facebook page "Alerta de incêndio florestal / forest fire alert"

Please support their work - A great initiative.  

How NOT to monitor - visiting fire scenes

Unfortunately some people get a thrill by attending fire scenes either to see the destruction themselves, take photos or for more sinister reasons as in the case of some arsonists. There are also of course journalists whose remit is to get action photos and a story. It is called among fire fighters " Catastrophe Tourism".

Unless specifically invited by the Commanders concerned, I can assure you that such presence is unwelcome.   This is because such presence detracts firefighters from their important work, and may put your own and others at risk.

Secondly unauthorised vehicles heading to fire scenes causes traffic problems and impede the progress of the emergency vehicles heading to the incident. Imagine a vehicle parked on a narrow road to Monchique, left unattended whilst the occupants are taking photos elsewhere!

Protection in case of a Forest Fire

Contacting the Emergency Services
In case of fire or any other emergency you should dial 112. 

This is for emergency use only and should not be used for non-emergencies. Simply state the nature of the emergency, your name and exactly where you are. The operator's standard of English is generally good,  but it is essential to speak clearly giving your name, location and nature of the emergency.

If you need to contact the Bomberios the contact details for each municipality can be found by clicking here. Do not phone them to report emergencies, as all calls should be made to the emergency number. The reason for this is that the emergency centres form a coordination point with police and other services, such as ambulance or police, may also be required.

When dealing with an emergency it is important to remain calm and follow the emergency centre operator's advice. It is also essential that these numbers are only used in a genuine emergency, as non-emergency calls can result in delayed response to those requiring urgent assistance. 

Equipment to have handy

For those living in rural areas where there is a risk of forest fires it is worth considering having an emergency pack available should a fire break out.

The ANPC have produced comprehensive guidelines covering this subject which can be downloaded from their website in Portuguese. An English version is as follows
Have the following spare equipment:

  • Battery operated radio and flashlight, with backup batteries;
  • First aid kit;
  • Food and beverages in preserved packaging; 
  • Strong and heat insulating shoes (example: leather);
  • A battery radio;

In the event that your family may be separated during a fire (when the adults are working and the children in school) develop a plan to bring it together. Use a point of contact between your family and friends. Make sure everyone knows your name, address and phone number;

The above are basic steps and you may wish to supplement these items if you are living in a high risk area, particularly during the summer.

Have these items together with a rucksack available if you have to leave the property quickly.

What to do if affected by a Forest Fire

If unfortunately you do become threatened by a fire it is essential that the correct steps are taken to reduce the risk to you, your family and property. The ANPC have produced guidelines on what actions you should take, including actions during and after a fire.

These have been translated into English and it is recommended that these are downloaded and printed and kept in an easy to reach place should a fire break out.

The guidelines can be downloaded here. 

Creating awareness of forest fire risks for visitors

It is unfortunately a fact that many visitors from cooler climates visit Portugal using motor caravans and/or for camping, are unaware of the fire risks. Although there are designated camp sites, lighting a BBQ in a forest area when the critical fire period is in place or at other times when the fire risk is very high or extreme, is illegal as it poses a serious risk to the forests and public safety.


If you have visitors staying with you please ensure that if they visiting forest areas that they are aware of the precautions that need to be taken. A simple download in English is

available here

For those businesses operating 4x4 vehicle tours, Safari Tours and wild camping holidays please ensure that your clients follow the precautions - no smoking in the back of Safari jeeps for instance!

Property Insurance - Fires


It goes without saying that if you live in a rural area property insurance including the risk of fires is very important. It is also important that you check your clauses carefully as some elements of protection of property is mandatory. 


For instance one clause sometimes used is very general, but if you are not compliant with the law concerning the protection of your home, this could invalidate the insurance in the event of a claim:


"Law applicable to the Contract


You and We are free to choose the law applicable to this contract but in the absence of agreement to the contrary, the law of the country in which You reside at the date of the contract (or in the case of a business, the law of the country in which the registered office or principal place of business) will apply".


Advice is to check with your insurance company or broker concerning any clauses you should be aware of in the event of a fire claim. It is better to check now rather than find out after the event.


How you can help - Donations

Safe Communities Algarve is a non-profit association run by unpaid volunteers. There are no salaried staff. Our services are free of charge to the public and the association is funded by donations. We help many people each year in dealing with the police as well providing a service which is unique in Portugal.


Your generosity by making a donation to help maintain and further develop the work of the association and thereby help keep the Algarve a safe place to live and visit would be appreciated. Any amount helps. 


If you would like to make a donation through Paypal please visit our Welcome page and click on the "donate" button. If you wish to donate by cheque or by interbank transfer please contact SCA for our bank details using the contact page. All donations should be marked "Donation for crime prevention". Thank you.

How your friends can obtain up to date Crime Prevention advice
Please pass on details of Safe Communities Algarve to neighbours and friends so they to can benefit from the up to date crime prevention advice. Simply ask them to click on the following link to obtain the latest newsletter: www.safecommunitiesalgarve.com This is a free service.



David Thomas

Safe Communities Algarve



20 April 2017


Newsletter sponsored by :