In the past weeks, a record number of forest fires started in
Portugal. The damaged area covers tens of thousands of hectares.
Tomás Roquette Tenreiro was not so surprised by the fires, but
argues for better fire prevention by forest management.
‘My family is a forest landowner in the south of Portugal. Luckily, the current forest fires are in the north, like almost every year. Maybe the last few years were less intense, but cases like this happen regularly. In the north, property areas are smaller and therefore effective forest management at a landscape level gets more complicated. It is the tragedy of the commons. Therefore, more cooperation from landowners is necessary to prevent fires like this one.
In this case, many things went wrong. The largest number of casualties was on a national road which should have been closed. Also, the fire fighters could have better intervention plans if they were not only volunteers and using old equipment.
It is interesting how public funding is always lacking with left-wing governments. In the media and politics, a lot of blame is put e on the eucalyptus and pine tree plantations in the area. If you ask me, it is not the tree species but the management that is at fault. We should be grateful to these species that forestry is still profitable in the area. Because a forest that does not generate value becomes an abandoned forest. With our climatic conditions, abandoned land has the highest risk of fires. Enough soil moisture combined with high temperatures makes the local ecosystems highly biomass productive and ignition power builds up fast. Then for the landowners, a forest fire feels like losing a child. I experience that every time a fire gets close to our family land. Building a productive forest requires long-term investment, and this can be destroyed in seconds. I find that idea really scary.’