“It’s been a positive year. Despite expectations, we had a very good year, the area burnt by fires is below what was predicted. Much lower, due to the efforts of all Civil Protection agents and forces that make up the device”, said Vítor Vaz Pinto, at the presentation of the Special Device to Combat Rural Fires in the Algarve.

In a year that was “particularly demanding from the meteorological point of view”, with high temperatures, lower than normal precipitation and all seven municipalities in severe or extreme drought. A parameter that allows the comparison of meteorological conditions and how they affect fires is presented as “very high” in the Algarve.

The estimated area burnt in the region based on its meteorological severity, “pointed to 17,800 hectares”, but in reality, it was “considerably lower”, said the regional commander of the National Emergency and Civil Protection Authority (ANEPC).

“Only 16 percent of the estimated area was affected, just over 2,700 ha. This shows the significance of the work done by all the forces of the device”, highlighted Vítor Vaz Pinto.

Between the 1st of January and the 31st of October, 269 fires were recorded, which started in the region and resulted in a burnt area of 789.77 ha, based on the data released.

Compared to the last 10 years, in 2023 there were 16 percent fewer rural fires and 44 percent less burnt area in contrast with the annual average for that period.

In comparison to last year, those values indicate a 28 percent increase in the number of fires and a 62 percent reduction of the totality of area burnt.

On the other hand, the fire that broke out in August in the area of Baiona, municipality of Odemira, district of Beja, burnt more than 7,500 ha, also affected the Algarve municipalities of Alzejur (1,635.85 ha) and Monchique (363,59 ha).

Out of the 269 fires that broke out in the region, 259 of them were controlled in the initial attack, before reaching 90 minutes counted from the time of the alert, the average recorded dispatch time was 50 seconds, “well below” the maximum of 2 minutes for fire response of the entire continental territory.

In 2023, fires that affected less than one hectare were the most frequent in the Algarve, representing 94 percent of the total and only three fires burnt an area greater than 100 ha.

The investigation of all fires contributed to finding the cause of 161 of them, the most frequent being the misuse of fire (36 percent of 269), accidental (14 percent) and arsonism (10 percent).

The ANEPC commander also highlighted the “substantial increase” in fire alarms, which mostly correspond to authorized burning and represented 51.6 percent of the 556 occurrences between the 1st of January and the 31st of October.

“Just because there are many false alarms, it does not mean that it is necessarily negative. This means that the population is more aware of these situations and naturally activates the system. I think it’s positive that people activate the system and not wait. It is best to call 112, even if other people have done so, it is always better to communicate. The faster the responders arrive, the more likely the fire is put out”, explained Vítor Vaz Pinto.