2017 was a hot year for Portugal. It was a warm summer, but the real and dramatic heat came from an unbelievable amount of fires in the country.
The 2017 Portugal’s fires have burnt 520,000 hectares of forest, representing nearly 60 percent of the total area burnt in the entire European Union in that year. The amount of land burnt in 2017 is the highest ever in Portuguese history. And tragically also with a lot of lives lost.
About the cause of all this, there is a national debate going on. Accusing climate change, blaming the eucalyptus industry – 20% of the forest area is covered with the oleiferous easily burning eucalyptus – but during this debate the government has also decided to take measures straightaway, to avoid another dramatic year like the country just had.
Mandatory rules and advices have been brought to the landowners in Portugal, and a deadline to follow these rules and advices: 15 march.
It is the date and the rules that brought quite a bit of panic amongst the people in rural Portugal. A lot of rumours and myths have been spread the last weeks. Therefore it is maybe be handy and clarifying to put down here the government rules and advices, which you can also find in “The Portugal News” of 24 february.
The mandatory rules:
By 15 march all landowners should clear their land “within a range of 50 metres around every building on their property, whenever these lands are occupied by forest, shrubs or natural pastures
With other types of use of your property in rural areas people have to create a clear range of at least 10 metres around every building.
The space between treetops should be at least 4 metres.
People should cut of side-branches of trees till 50% of the height of the tree, fruittrees excluded.
Trees and bushes must be 5 metres away from any building on a rural property.
Do not keep firewood or other inflammable material within this 5 metre zone.
The government’s advices are:
Non-inflammable pavement around your buildings
Be choosy with inflammable vegetation.
Have a good working hose-water system on your land.
Keep your roof and gutters clean
Protect your doors and windows with blinds, shutters or double glazing
Keep the access to your house unobstructed
Have a list of emergency-contacts
A whole list of obligations and recommendations. How to deal with them? Is it possible to bring all of them into practice?
A few issues keep coming back, when talking to people: what about the trees and what to do will all the pruning waste?
About the trees: 50% of the stem has to be pruned up till a maximum of 4 metres (depending on the length of the tree of course). This rule doesn’t count for fruit-trees.
Pruning-waste is often burnt. But there is also another option, which contributes to the richness of the soil as well: mulching. People with a piece of land would make a good decision, investing in a chipper. Chipped wood can be used as mulch on your land to keep the soil more moist and it suppresses the weeds to grow. Another advice we can give to all those people who work so hard now to clear there land: do the most necessary things before 15 march, but spread the rest of the clearing throughout the year. Then you will start the next year with a piece of land that already looks well-maintained when you are beginning. And last but not least: don’t prune and clear because you have to, but because you will be more safe when the hot dry summer comes.