A high-level summary of post-mortem analysis & reaction following the devastating fires of this past summer in Portugal. Dunno why this rates as news NOW, since the government and NGO reports came out some months ago… And it’s noteworthy that they cite just a single theory of immediate cause (i.e. dry lightning strike), when there are competing theories -including organized arson.
Fire experts, meanwhile, pointed to a series of shortcomings in Portugal’s strategy of tackling wildfires, even though the summer blazes have been happening for decades.
There is a broad consensus that more work is needed on fire prevention, starting with forest clearing and the creation of fire breaks.
“In Portugal, the main factor in the scale of wildfires is the unbroken stretches of forest,” Paulo Fernandes, a forest researcher at Portugal’s Tras-os-Montes e Alto Douro University, said.
But he noted that around 90 percent of landowners have smallholdings, making it difficult for authorities to keep tabs on them all.
Xavier Viegas, a wildfire expert at Portugal’s Coimbra University, said Portugal needs a long-term strategy, but changes in government often mean changes in forest and farm policies.
He said a key measure would be the creation of “fire-resilient communities” who receive instructions on what to do when faced with a wildfire and to not act rashly.
“We need to prepare them so that they don’t go dashing off in cars,” Mr Viegas said.
Portugal’s leading environmental lobby group, Quercus, blamed the blazes on “forest management errors and bad political decisions” by governments over recent decades.
It rebuked authorities for allowing the planting of huge swathes of eucalyptus trees – the country’s most common and most profitable species – but one that is often blamed for stoking blazes.
Emergency services were also criticised for not closing the road where most of the deaths occurred. (Source)