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

8 May 2014

Now that the weather has suddenly become much warmer and drier it is a good time to ensure that we are all aware of measures to prevent fires and also the laws concerning the burning of rubbish etc.

This is not only necessary for our own protection and that of our property, but also to minimize the risk to others including, of course, the emergency services who have to put their lives at risk in dealing with such incidents.

It is interesting to note that in the last 3 weeks there have been around 360 forest fires in Portugal, some 2733 firemen were involved and 819 vehicles deployed. Many of these fires are preventable so please read this newsletter. 

To help reinforce this message SCA is holding a number of displays and seminars on the subject of forest fire protection with the GNR and the ANPC (Civil Protection Agency). Details are in this newsletter and others to follow.

Details about Civil Protection and the different entities in Portugal involved in dealing with emergencies can be found on Safe Communities Algarve's Civil Protection page.

This newsletter is focused on fire prevention as it is timely that we remind ourselves about this important subject when the risk of fires is high. For up to date news of crime arrests and other news please visit our news page which shows all the news since our last newsletter.

Critical Wildfire Period

This is the period each year announced by Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, where special measures are put in place to prevent forest fires due to exceptional meteorological conditions. During this period 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
  • Undertaking 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.

In 2013 the critical period was designated 1st July to 30th September. Although this year's dates have not yet been announced, it is usually the same or similar period. When it is the information is available it can be found on the following link.

Burning fires outside the Critical Wildfire Period


If you wish to burn debris or pasture renewal burning outside the critical period or when the wildfire hazard is not very high or maximum, you should contact contact your local council or the Forestry office. Burning is only permitted after obtaining a permit/permission from the city council or parish in your area. Anyone contravening this is liable for a fine up to € 60,000.


You should also:


  • Avoid periods of strong winds that increase the intensity of the flames, which may ignite surrounding areas,
  • Avoid the hottest days when debris and pasture are drier,
  • Avoid fires in the proximity of trees, piles of firewood, gas containers or other highly inflammable material and overhead electric lines,
  • Avoid burning large piles of debris and instead burn several small piles.


To check the daily fire hazard you can contact the local council, Forestry office, or easier still the Portuguese Weather Institute (Instituto Metereolgia) by internet. The later shows the fire risk by Municipalities throughout Portugal for the day and following day. For instance at the time preparing this news letter the risk in Monchique was extreme (maximum) whereas in the eastern Algarve it is high. Click here to view the map.


Protection your house against wildfires
The National Forest Authority gives 10 basic steps for the protection of properties in isolated rural areas as follows:

  1. Knowing the problem - Managing fuel, in other words, the environment in the surrounding area is the best way to protect your house.
  2. 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.
  3. Reducing the most flammable vegetation. Give priority to a 10 meter watering area around the property avoiding the planting of inflammable vegetation.
  4. Thinning and pruning. It is important this is done regularly giving priority to weak or ill trees.
  5. 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.
  6. Non-flammable pavement area. Keep an area of between 1 or 2 meters of pavement around the building.
  7. Unobstructed access. Make a protection area of 10 meters on the vehicular access side of the property so that large emergency vehicles can can manoeuvre,
  8. Clean the roof and other structures of the house. Remove dried grass, dead leaves, pine needles, tree branches and moss from the roofing gutters, eaves and in wooden decking.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Contacting the Emergency Services

In case of fire or any other emergency you should dial 112. For forest fires you can also dial 117. These are 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 operators standard of English is good. 
If you need to contact the Bomberios in the Algarve the contact details for each municipality can can be found by clicking here. Do not phone them to report emergencies as all calls should be made to the emergency numbers.

Monitoring fires through the internet
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. In so far as the Algarve is concerned the ANPC has a coordination center based in Faro and is manned by staff from other authorities such as the GNR.

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 in fighting fires then you can do so through this ANPC link



The Bombeiros in the Algarve is divided into 15 districts districts with its headquarters in Faro. By clicking on "Corpos de Bombeiros de Faro" and then on the crest for your area, gives you all the contact details and other information of your nearest fire station.


In case of major incidents our News/Events page will provide daily information including public appeals such as calls for donations which have been made by the Bombeiros, Civil Protection Agency and other authorities.

Forthcoming Seminar/displays on Forest fire prevention

Dealing with forest fires involves a number of agencies which is coordinated by the ANPC Civil Protection agency. Other agencies such as the GNR also have vital roles to play with specialist units such as SEPNA that deal with environment protection issues and GIPS who deal with emergency situations such as fighting fires, other natural disasters and the evacuation and rescuing of victims. SEPNA has a wide range of responsibilities dealing, for instance, with cruelty to animals. 


In order that residents are more aware of the work of these agencies Safe Communities Algarve is holding, together with the GNR, a number of displays and seminars where people can speak to those involved and view some of the emergency equipment. The ANPC have also agreed to participate.


These displays/seminars are focused at those living in rural areas and will be in English. Captain Santos Commander of GNR Faro will be present together with GNR specialist units and their Safe Residence Programme team. Details are the events are as follows: 


  • Tuesday 20th May 2014 from 1700 to 1900 hrs at the Freguesia de Santa B�rbara de Nexe, located at Rua Da Junta de Freguesia 8, Santa B�rbara de Nexe
  • Thursday 22nd May 2014 from 1700 to 1900 at the Museu Do Trajo de Algarve, Rua Dr Jose Dias Sancho 61, Sao Bras de Alportel 
  • Friday 30th May 2014 1600 to 1800 - Monchique (details to be confirmed)
I would advise everyone to attend these seminars and displays as it will be an excellent opportunity to speak directly to those involved in civil protection planning and dealing with natural disasters including fires - which could affect your property.

If you wish to attend please contact info@safecommunitiesalgarve.com

INEM (Instituto Nacional de Emerg�ncia M�dica) 

Since 1981 Portugal has had an Integrated Medical Emergency System (SIEM). SIEM it is a set of entities that cooperate with one goal: providing assistance to victims of accident or sudden illness. These entities are the PSP, GNR, INEM, the fire department, the Portuguese Red Cross, Hospitals and Health Centres. INEM is the agency of the Ministry of Health responsible for coordinating the operation in mainland Portugal.


The system starts when someone calls 112 - The European Emergency Number. The service call connects to the national emergency centre operated by the PSP. Where the reason for the call has to do with health, it is transferred to the Center's Guidance Emergency Patients (CODU) unit under INEM. Whenever CODU initiates an emergency response it is handled by the unit closest to the place of occurrence, regardless of the entity to which it belongs. More information can be found at the INEM website.



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.


Operation "Safe Forest"

The GNR is conducting until the 14th of May, a number of awareness campaigns at national level, especially directed at schools on measures to prevent fires by cleaning, removal of undergrowth and maintenance procedures, and fuel management with the aim of reducing the risk of forest fire.


In 2013, the GNR experienced about 23,801 fire incidents, 43 persons were arrested and 750 suspected arsonists identified. This year, by the end of March, there were 928 occurrences of fire, four arrests had been made and 53 suspects had been arrested.


The problem of forest fires in Portugal has become increasingly important, especially due to the negative impacts of fires on natural resources. In this sense, with the completion of these actions to raise awareness, the GNR intends to encourage good practices and respect for nature, ensuring, ultimately, sustainability and the future of our forests.

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.

Previous newsletters

We try and issue a newsletter every two weeks, either a "Special" as in this case or one that contains a variety of crime and crime prevention matters, news and events etc. If you wish to refer to an earlier newsletter going back to mid 2012 or find one you have not received one recently, please go to our Newsletter page which has the complete list. 

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

Associa��o Safe Communities Algarve



8 May 2014


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