Pacific Daylight Time
Sponsored by the California Fire Science Consortium
Fantina Tedim, Assistant professor at the Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts, University of Porto, Portugal
Lloyd C. Irland, The Irland Group and Faculty Associate, University of Maine, School of Forest Resources
The 2017 fire season saw the highest number of deaths by wildfire in Portugal’s history. The Pedrógão Grande wildfire disaster took 64 lives in Portugal in summer 2017. This is not only one of the greatest disasters occurred in the country but it also represents one of the highest toll of fatalities in a single wildfire event at the world level. This fire complex burned 73,000 acres and left the Portuguese society incredulous and in shock state. A later fire complex burst out in the autumn. A severe heat wave, a prolonged severe drought (Palmer Drought Severity Index), and high fuel loads contributed to create a fire with extreme behavior. This kind of extreme wildfire events burn at intensities that can be high above the capacity of control. However, problems in suppression (problems of coordination in the command and the collapse of the communication system- SIRESP) and the lack of fire awareness and preparedness of people (most of them not permanent residents in the area affected) explain the high number of fatalities and houses affected. This deserves attention as Portuguese houses are built with stones or bricks and do not burn easily; in many villages the citizens themselves protected their properties. This disaster is an evidence of the failure of Portuguese wildfire policies which focus almost exclusively on suppression (“a war against the fire”) as well as negative impacts on rural areas of several other public policies. What could have been recorded in Portuguese fire history just as another very large event became a tragedy that captured international media attention and support of many countries in the world. This presentation will summarize the events of the fire, and its immediate operational and policy lessons. Data on the area’s fire history and land use conditions will be presented, and the fire’s occurrence will be set in context of a statistical analysis of extreme events in the region.
For more information and to join the webinar, click HERE.