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

25th January 2019

Welcome to the first part of our Definitive Guide to land cleaning for 2019. This is the 6th successive year that we have published this guide and I hope this has helped clarify matters when the law itself can be quite complicated. 

This year you may note that it is much earlier than usual as there are a number of changes that were announced by government on 21st January. As such we will publish the guide in a number of parts as and when more information becomes available. This is the first part.

This newsletter also announces the launch today 25th January 2019 of the "PortugalChama - Portugal Calls for All " campaign by Government  as a call for action to mobilise communities to contribute to the protection of the country against serious rural fires" 

Having met with a number of government agencies over the last 10 days in Lisbon I am very pleased that one of the biggest concerns and problems that we encountered in 2018, namely the very mixed and complicated messages coming from Government is being fully addressed. These mixed messages were not only experienced by the foreign community, but by the local community as well. It was clear that there was little coordination between various departments when it came to communication, which made it difficult for people to understand.

Over the last few months we have worked closely with the new  Agency for the Integrated Management of Rural Fires (AGIF) Headed by Tiago Oliveira, who under the new legislation has a coordinating role between various departments involved in the prevention and protection of the population against rural fires.

This was established by the Council of Ministers reporting to the Prime Minister following the fires last year, and under its initial mandate brought in a number of wild fire experts from overseas to share there experience with the Portuguese authorities and technicians from various departments such as the ANPC, Bombeiros and municipalities. We at Safe Communities were also able to meet some of these experts. 

This shared experience, has I feel, been taken on board in driving the way forward in a more focused and integrated way.

The message I would like to get across is lets be positive. The vast majority of land in Portugal is privately owned, so there is only so much that the Government can do. It is up to all of use to do our part, by sharing these important messages, reporting non-compliance by neighbours and of course keeping our own land in order.

Once again a reminder. The information included in this newsletter are from the various Government agencies with whom we have OFFICIAL mandates. This gives us the responsibility to advise government, reflect public views and to disseminate accordingly. Please be aware that there are others on social media who have given comment and advice, but have no mandates upon which to so.

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

Part two of this guide will cover Protection of the population in the event of rural fires and other changes which may come into force over the coming months. 

Finally I would like to thank Ibex Insurance, Destination AlgarveAlgarve Homes and Mestre Raposa or 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

Summary of changes for 2019 and what has not changed

In the last 10 days Safe Communities has attended a number of meetings with the Agency for the Integrated Management of Rural Fire, IP (AGIF), ICNF and GNR. From these meetings and the publication of the new Decree Laws a few days ago, we are in a position to provide up to date information which we hope readers will find useful.

This is a brief summary of some of the changes for 2019 mainly concerning fuel management that will change as well as those that will remain as of last year:

  • The new Agency for the Integrated Management of Rural Fires (AGIF) has been formed and will coordinate matters between agencies such as the ANEPC, ICNF, GNR and others in respect of the prevention, supression of fires and the protection of the population. 
  • The AGIF has a website  www.portugalchama.pt which has just been created and will provide a guiding focus regarding the rural fire management. See more about Portugal Chama below. The site will be expanded.
  • Land cleaning needs to be completed by the same deadline as last year i.e 15th March.
  • The inspection of the cleaning of lands adjacent to buildings (i.e in a range of 50 meters); and for clusters and industrial areas (in a range of 100 meters) will be carried out between 1st April and 31st May and protection bands of land adjacent to roads and rail networks and the transmission and distribution lines of electric power, will be carried out between  1st and 30th June.
  • A new map of priority areas numbering 1142 parishes has been created. This is more than last year and some areas have changed. It is important to remember however, that cleaning is still required in non-priority areas as well.
  • In terms of enforcement the GNR have made it clear that this will be preceded by awareness and warnings.
  • The publicity and communication concerning all matters concerning protection of the forests, land cleaning etc has fundamentally changed. This will ensure in hopefully easier to understand material, which is better coordinated between various agencies.
  • Enquiries - A dedicated line for information on matters such as land cleaning and all issues concerning protection measures is 808 200 520. 

"Portugal Chama - Portugal Calls for all"

On 23rd January 2019, Safe Communities attended a meeting Chaired by Tiago Oliveira Head of the Agency for the Integrated Management of Rural Fires (AGIF). Also in attendence was the National Association of Freguesias and various forestry associations.

The meeting was briefed on the Communication Campaign for 2019 under the name "Portugal Chama" in other words "Portugal Calls for All".  

This is the Campaign

"Portugal Charma - Portugal calls for all!"

Mobilise to change behaviour before summer arrives

It is in the hands of all of us to contribute to a Portugal to be protected from serious rural fires.
"Portugal calls" is the National Campaign with the seal of the Portuguese Republic, which integrates the participation of all the governed areas and supervised services involved in the prevention and combating rural fires,  The campaign starts on 25th January through television, radio, press, digital and billboards.

"Portugal calls" is much more than a campaign, it is a call to action, which launches a challenge to each of the population to mobilise and contribute to a country protection from serious rural fires. The danger is there and it is up to us all to act by summer, cleaning the land, taking care of the land and the forest, performing the registering of the land, protecting the villages and alerting people of the risk.

Emotion and action

The first video that will air 25th January is a strong and emotional message and reminds us of difficult times, but it challenges us all to play an active and decisive role. Each one of us is part of the solution.

The video can be downloaded here

The second video on land cleaning (an introduction) can be downloaded here

Then, throughout the year, films, radio spots, billboards, press releases and distributed leaflets, along with the website and a number of mobilisation of citizens to:

Value the forest, nature, land
Caring for the earth
Modify behaviour

We want to reach all citizens and believe in a strong regional campaign.

We can all make it happen differently on the ground, in each region, county, parish, village.
"Portugal Chama. For you. For all".

More information
There will be an increasing availability in English through our contract with government.

More details of the communication channels will be available shortly and will be published on our website and Safe Communities Facebook page.

Vision, objectives and measures for the implementation of the Integrated Rural Fire Management System '

The following provides an overview in the fundamental way in which government will  ensure that fire does not pose a threat to the population, nor does it present a potential for harm to people, property and the environment. 

This was approved by a Resolution of the Council of Ministers Decree Law no. 12/2019 dated 21 -1 -2019

The following is an extract

"The protection, relief and assistance of populations in the face of collective risks are essential rights and are of particular importance in view of the scale of the catastrophes and the potential of the resulting victims, together with the psychological and socio-economic impacts on the populations affected, and in the country as a whole.

In this sense, civil protection structures, working in a multi-sector framework, have as their fundamental goals, the prevention of collective risks inherent to major accidents or catastrophes, mitigation of their effects and protection and rescue of people and goods in danger, when those situations occur, as recommended in the Basic Law of Civil Protection.

The past has shown the dramatic impact of the great rural fires on the lives of the population, with loss of lives, property and thousands of hectares of forest. This evidence appears in the reports of the two Independent Technical Commissions created within the Assembly of the Republic. It is the result of the firm will to change the national paradigm in the prevention and combat of rural fires, which are the expression of the guidelines approved by the Council of Ministers.

 In effect, the Government has implemented a new model of action, which advocates a greater and effective safety of people in the face of major accidents and disasters and a preventive attitude of civil protection, resulting in the adoption of an integrated and specialised model for the management of rural fire, seeking to ensure that fire does not pose a threat to the population, nor does it present a potential for harm to people, property and the environment.

Within this framework, an integrated system for the management of rural fires has been established, and the Agency for the Integrated Management of Rural Fire, IP (AGIF, IP) is responsible for planning, strategic coordination and evaluation.

The paradigm shift that the new system implies strengthens the commitment, collaboration and involvement of all entities whose missions contribute to managing rural fires, such as AGIF, IP, the Institute of Nature Conservation and Forests (ICNF, IP), the National Authority for Emergency and Civil Protection (ANEPC), the National Republican Guard (GNR), the Armed Forces, Fire Departments, and all private agents, including sector companies, forest producers' organisations, owners foresters and citizens". 

Prime Minister - Announces the Structural Reform

The Prime Minister António Costa presided over the installation of the Agency for the Integrated Management of Rural Fire, at the Centre for Forest Operations and Techniques, at a ceremony in  Lousã, on 21st January 2019.

This was attended by the Ministers of National Defence, Gomes Cravinho, Internal Administration, Eduardo Cabrita, Deputy and Economy, Siza Vieira, Planning and Infrastructure, Pedro Marques, Environment and Energy Transition, Matos Fernandes, and Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development, Capoulas Santos.

The members of the Government visited the Centre for Forest Operations and Techniques and participated in a meeting of the integrated management of rural fire system , prior to the installation of the Agency for the Integrated Management of Rural Fire (AGIF), chaired by Tiago Oliveira.

The Prime Minister recalled that there had been, especially since 2006, 'a distraction that cannot be restored' with regard to forest and rural fires. The Government approved a structural reform of the forest and also several measures (some of which are published in the  Diário da República 

"It is essential that everyone is aware that there is a need to clean up the bushes and trees around houses and villages, in order to reduce the risk of fire next summer," he said.

António Costa said that "we can never be rested in relation to the risks of fire that exist", especially as climate change has increased in recent years.  

"There is a global problem of climate change that has aggravated the conditions for the outbreak of fires, where desertification of the interior of the country and forest disorganisation has already led to the occurrence of fires," he said.

Therefore, the Government has enforced the Fire Prevention Act, especially during the winter, and strengthened the whole system to improve fire-fighting interventions, in particular preventing them from reaching large populations.

António Costa pointed out that for this year the Government has reserved 360 million euros for actions of prevention, surveillance and firefighting, of which about 158 million euros are for prevention, beginning on the 25th the information and warning campaign, called 'Portugal chama!'.

AGIF, headquartered in Lousã, will have 18 employees, distributed throughout the continent's other intermunicipal communities, which constitute the main network of the Integrated Management System for Rural Fire.
The law concerning the cleaning of land (fuel management)

Article 153.º of the Annual Budget of 2018

During the year 2018, the work defined in number 2 of article 15 of Decree-Law no. 124/2006, of 28 June, must occur up to 15 March, in its current version, regardless of the existence or approval of a Municipal Plan Forest Protection against Fire (PMDFCI).

During the year 2018, the fines referred to Article 38 of Decree-Law No. 124/2006, of June 28, in its current version, are increased to double which is the same for 2019.

If you do not do it by 15 th March, you  can pay fines that can reach up to 10,000 euros for individuals and up to 120,000 euros for companies.

As of this date, the Municipalities can substitute to the owners in the cleaning of the bush. The owners are obliged to allow access to their land and to pay the expenses to them 

In the case of replacement referred in the previous paragraph, owners and other forest producers are obliged to allow access to their land and to reimburse the Municipalities of the expenses incurred with the fuel management.

What to do if the neighbouring land has not been cleaned

This is one of the biggest problems facing landowners. If part of the neighbouring land is within 50 metres of your house then they need to comply. Sometimes such land has been abandoned and therefore become overgrown. In other instances the people may have little money to clean their land risk a fine. And unfortunately there are some who refuse to clean.

In tackling this it is best to try and speak to the neighbour first if possible. However if this is not possible or you have spoken and the owner refuses, then it should be reported to the GNR SEPNA

If this is reported to them then it will be accorded high priority especially if this in High Risk Areas.

This will then be checked, and enforcement action taken against the owner and the land cleaned by the municipality (on a risk priority basis).

It is realised that people may be reluctant to report for fear of creating problems with a neighbour. However if left unreported and no action is taken then it is your property that remains at risk. 

How will these measures be enforced

In 2018, over 6800 businesses and individuals were fined for not not managing their land. compared to 1686 in 2017. In addition some councils were fined for not cleaning the sides of the roads they are responsible. 

Prevention also comes before enforcement however, so the Portugal Chama campaign is being undertaken throughout the country to create awareness among the community in order that as much land is cleaned by the 15th March. 

These awareness campaigns are being coordinated by AGIF, and  undertaken by GNR, civil protection, Bombeiros and others, including volunteer organizations, through the media and visits to those in isolated areas.

The GNR  have emphasised that it is important to note that the whole object of the campaign is to ensure that the areas where the risks are high are cleaned to help protect life and property in the event of a fire. Where reports have been made to the council and or GNR, or they themselves have noted areas that are required to be cleaned, the owner or tenant will usually be warned with advice given on what needs to be done, before enforcement action is taken. 

If, however, by the 15th March land has not been cleaned then a contravention order may be issued.  

As far as we are aware the land owners/tenants, who do not comply after such warnings by the GNR or Civil Protection, will receive in due course a notification by post of the fine, giving the amount, how it needs to be  paid and the payment deadline. Failure to do so will result in further action and the likelihood of higher penalties.

Fines: The fines for failing to clean land for 2019 and are currently €280 - €10,000 for individuals and €1600 - €120,000 for corporations.

Priority areas for inspections

The Government has identified 1142 parishes on the mainland that are at high risk risk of fires including 703 at Very High Catagory 1 Risk. 

The priority areas for the inspection of fuel management (land cleaning) are divided into the parishes of 1st and 2nd priority, (red and orange respectively) according to the classification of the Institute of Nature and Forest Conservation, ICNF. For the Algarve a total of 24 parishes have been prioritised.

The Priority map can be downloaded here. 


When groups of houses in rural areas are located close together in a group such as for instance an urbanisation this is known as a cluster. In such cases only the external perimeter at a range of 100 metres needs to be protected.

The laws concerning the cleaning of land within that range are the same for 50m around individual houses. 

If there are doubts whether you are part of a cluster then contact the GNR or Civil Protection for advice.
Contact information

Concerning reporting and enforcement and general matters people should contact the local councils. For the Algarve these are shown in the chart.

For matters concerning the interpretation of the laws regarding cleaning and pruning, and different types of trees, including protected trees then, then contact the ICNF. For the Algarve it is :  Tel: 289 700 210 Fax: 289 700 219 or email: dcnfalg@icnf.pt

There is also now an information line for all enquiries and that is 808 200 520, manned by staff from a number of different agencies.

In case of difficulty contacting the ICNF at the above email address use  DCNF.Algarve@icnf.pt
Precautions to be taken when burning debris and other material

Firstly before doing anything call the local Bombeiros or Municipality and inform them that you wish to do so. They will check the weather conditions in your area and any specific matters to be aware of.

The burning of debris is one of the most common ways of disposing of cut waste from your land but when uncontrolled is one of the biggest causes of rural fires.

The ICNF has provided a comprehensive list of precautions to be taken when burning debris at times when it is permissible to do so - this is known as a controlled burn. This is used to eliminate left-over materials from forestry operations or farming, such as pruned leaves and branches from vines and olive trees, among others, cut up and piled into a heap.

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. Many fires are caused by people burning debris or land without taking the proper precautions.

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.

The basics

The most basic advice is to choose cloudy days; take your mobile phone with you so you can raise the alarm in the case of fire and have someone else with you when you undertake the burn. Do not undertake controlled burns when the weather is hot and dry or when it is windy.

How to undertake a controlled burn safely

One good piece of advice 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.
  • Move the pile of left-over materials that you are going to burn away from grazing land, woods, scrubland and trees.
  • Make a vegetation-free firebreak around the things that you are going to burn.
  • Wet the firebreak before you start the burn.
  • Have a water supply or a hose alongside the site of the burn.
  • Make several small piles instead of big ones.
  • Burn the left-over waste in batches.
  • Stay vigilant. If any sparks fly, put them out immediately.
  • Leaving a burn unattended is prohibited.
  • Pay attention to changes in the wind. Protect yourself from the smoke by covering your mouth and nose with damp cloths or a smoke mask. Inhaling smoke can be fatal.
  • If the burn gets out of control keep a safe distance and dial 112.
How to put out a controlled burn.

It is important that these tips are followed as many fires are caused by fires that have been left to burn without being properly extinguished.
  • Keep burning until only ashes are left.
  • Turn over the burnt remains to see if any small flames still persist.
  • Put the burn site out with water or by throwing earth on top of it.
  • Do not leave the site until you have checked that there is no smoke coming from the ashes.
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.
The leaflet from the ICNF in PDF format 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 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/ Rural fires page, several links to different sites which also provide useful information related to Rural  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 rural 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 rural fire has broken out, or the progress, then you can do so through this ANPC link.

During a fire there will of course be much information and photographs that are posted onto Facebook in 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 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/ Rural fires page, several links to different sites which also provide useful information related to Forest fires.

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, whichmay 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. 

What to do if affected by a Forest Fire

If unfortunately if there is a fire in your area there are steps that should be taken to help safeguard your property and yourself and family. . The ANPC have produced guidelines on what actions you should take, including actions during and after a fire.

These have been translated into English, Spanish, French, German, Dutch and Russian by Safe Communities and and it is recommended that these are downloaded, printed and kept in an easy to reach place should a fire break out.

The guidelines can be downloaded here. 

More on this topic will be in the second part of the guide.

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.


KissFM Solid Gold Sunday - Crime Check

Safe Communities Portugal will be discussing this on Solid Gold Sunday - Crime check feature with Owen Gee on Sunday 27th January at 0915 hrs


Please stay tuned!

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 SCP for our bank details using the contact page. All donations should be marked "Donation for crime prevention". Thank you.

All the information in this newsletter is published in good faith and for general information purpose only, and as such should not be considered as a substitute for advice covering any specific situation. The information provided in this newsletter has not been written to meet individual requirements and it is your sole responsibility to satisfy yourself prior to using the information in any way for your purposes. Associacao SCP Safe Communities Portugal does not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information. Any action you take upon the information is strictly at your own risk and we will not be liable for any consequential, incidental or direct losses and damages in the course of using this information.

How your friends can obtain up to date Crime Prevention advice
Please pass on details of Safe Communities Portugal 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.safecommunitiesportugal.com This is a free service.



David Thomas

Safe Communities Algarve



25th January 2019


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