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Due to the recent dreadful fires and loss of life in central Portugal I am opening this thread. IT IS SOLELY FOR INFORMATION so please can we keep it to that.

More information to follow once all the legalities are checked.
TRAVELLING MAN is working on the legalities with a friend
Once it is all together he will post all the information.
 

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My thanks to Siobhan.

I've been working on this with some of my Portuguese friends & we're currently putting together a full set of Portuguese language documents that can be submitted to the relevant authorities AND a set of English language guides so that the complainant can force the issue of having landowner or Camara clear the land in a sensible time period & if they do not, then the landowner can clear the offending land themselves or appoint a contractor to do it & then sell the wood to recover his/her costs.

In the meantime, full facts (but not documents & guides yet) are here: This summer, protect your household from wildfires! |

Basically; the law states that a firebreak of 10 m from the road verge, 50m from a lone house & 100m from a village etc be observed.

I appreciate enforcing this isn't going to be popular with the owners of commercial woodland & also that it'll cost them money but rather that than it costs people homes, lives, property & livestock.

And if the landowners of commercial woodland don't like it, they can go hang.
 

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My thanks to Siobhan.

I've been working on this with some of my Portuguese friends & we're currently putting together a full set of Portuguese language documents that can be submitted to the relevant authorities AND a set of English language guides so that the complainant can force the issue of having landowner or Camara clear the land in a sensible time period & if they do not, then the landowner can clear the offending land themselves or appoint a contractor to do it & then sell the wood to recover his/her costs.

In the meantime, full facts (but not documents & guides yet) are here: This summer, protect your household from wildfires! |

Basically; the law states that a firebreak of 10 m from the road verge, 50m from a lone house & 100m from a village etc be observed.

I appreciate enforcing this isn't going to be popular with the owners of commercial woodland & also that it'll cost them money but rather that than it costs people homes, lives, property & livestock.

And if the landowners of commercial woodland don't like it, they can go hang.
Well done TM. Keep up the good work. You mentioned to me recently the requirement for the tree line to be 50 metres from a habitable building or outbuilding. If I am reading that document correctly, it mentions, "50 meters around, from masonry boundaries." Does that mean that if the perimeter of your land is masonry, the 50 metres starts from there? If so, I wonder how high the 'masonry' needs to be. Would a couple of bricks do it?
 

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Well done TM. Keep up the good work. You mentioned to me recently the requirement for the tree line to be 50 metres from a habitable building or outbuilding. If I am reading that document correctly, it mentions, "50 meters around, from masonry boundaries." Does that mean that if the perimeter of your land is masonry, the 50 metres starts from there? If so, I wonder how high the 'masonry' needs to be. Would a couple of bricks do it?
The same question also occurred to me & I think I'm going to build a couple of brick built nesting boxes right on the boundaries of my property. ;)

We can but try.
 

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Hi TM
Yes I'm visiting the PT forum again. Can I just clarify:

My thanks to Siobhan.

I've been working on this with some of my Portuguese friends & we're currently putting together a full set of Portuguese language documents that can be submitted to the relevant authorities AND a set of English language guides so that the complainant can force the issue of having landowner or Camara clear the land in a sensible time period & if they do not, then the landowner can clear the offending land themselves or appoint a contractor to do it & then sell the wood to recover his/her costs.
It would appear to me that this is confusing and I think the second mention of "landowner" should be "complainant."
 

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Hi TM
Yes I'm visiting the PT forum again. Can I just clarify:



It would appear to me that this is confusing and I think the second mention of "landowner" should be "complainant."
Sorry..... you're right.

I'm very limited to comms at the moment & my post was hurried.

So to clarify, the complainant can follow the process to have the landowner cut the offending trees & clean the offending land and if the landowner fails to do so, the complainant can then require the Camara to do it & if they do not do so, the complainant can then attach 'notice to cut' signs on some of the trees & after the time period (I think 30 days) can cut the trees himself or appoint a contractor to do it for him & then sell the wood to cover his costs.

I'm just beginning this process myself but am still researching as I go........ I'll post a proper report etc as I achieve each step and/or get proper comms back.
 

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Just to let people know that we’re still waiting to get processes finalised & legalities checked but of course we’re slap bang in the holiday season which will quite understandably slow things down but in the meantime, I thought I’d give you an update on my particular situation in the hope that people might be able to apply my experiences to their own situation.

I don't pretend to be an expert in bush fires but I've seen a number of them in Africa & even been caught in one or two so do have limited experience. It’s not difficult to track the path of the most ferocious part of a bushfire after it’s happened. All you have to do is take a walk into the burned areas & look for signs of hottest burn & use indicators such as young pine & eucalyptus trees that have been bent over by the wind & heat & it soon becomes apparent how the fire & winds behaved.

Having spent a few hours in the last couple of days just walking through the forest behind the house it looks to me that you can see the fire came more or less from the East of my house & when it hit the upward slope behind the house it increased in speed & ferocity (fire burns 4 times faster uphill) & then burned around both sides of our house & continued on to burn 2 of my neighbours houses (one completely & the other partially) and also swept up the hill to the North, jumped the road & continued to increase speed & temperature as it went...... shortly thereafter, it consumed another house & 4 lives and from there on through the village taking other houses & lives of both human & animal.

In other words, the forest behind my house was the door through which the firestorm entered & had it been cleared of trees & undergrowth to the legal boundary of 100 metres & the road to 10 metres on either side, it's perfectly reasonable to say the fire would probably have stopped at the firebreak 100 metres behind my house & other properties & very possibly none of those houses or lives would have been lost.

So whilst we wait for the process to cut trees & clear land to be finalised, might I suggest that those concerned about their particular situation take a walk through the woodland that they’re concerned about & try to identify & photograph the most flammable areas such as undergrowth & trees etc because the more evidence you supply the easier it will be to get the land cleared when you make the complaint.

Unfortunately I don’t have the bandwidth to post pics for examples right now but will add those whenever my proper comms are restored.
 

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It seems that the message is getting through, in some parts at least. I saw on the news yesterday that in one area they are cutting trees away from the roadside. I only happened to glance up at the screen as the item was ending so have no idea where it was. Now we just need the rest of the country to wake up!
 

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Some areas are reporting that owners of commercial woodland are offering to cut the eucalyptus or even hand land over to the Camaras etc and many are suggesting it's a great step forward but I see that as too little, too late.......... Eucalyptus thrives on fire & have not only dropped their seed so new trees will grow the old ones are already regenerating if you look at them.

This means that in 5 or 10 years from now the situation will be at least as bad as it was when this wildfire occurred & very possibly worse.

Fire is a part of nature & cannot & should not be prevented but it is possible to create areas that are safe & the country already has laws in place to ensure the firebreak distances but they're flouted by the world & his dog & that must change!

The ONLY way to prevent this happening again is to cut every single eucalyptus & pine within 100 metres of buildings (50 metres for lone buildings outside villages etc) & 10 metres of roadside verges, grub out every root (of those trees) & keep those firebreak areas clean of flammable materials on a permanent basis.

If the firebreak distances could be extended and penalties for infringement increased so much the better.

There is of course another issue that to me seems to have been completely ignored...... This fire caused immense loss of lives, livelihoods & property & whilst the Portuguese people have been incredibly supportive to the (surviving) victims (for which I will be eternally grateful) we're not hearing much about prosecutions of those responsible for planting their commercial woodland right up to houses & roads & I wonder why not?

It would be easy to say 'oh well, it's not their fault, they didn't know' but the truth is that ignorance is no excuse, they probably (in many cases) did know & if they didn't know, they should have done. So that argument doesn't work for me & it won't bring back the dead, rebuild the houses or recreate the livelihoods of those that suffered.
 

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Some areas are reporting that owners of commercial woodland are offering to cut the eucalyptus or even hand land over to the Camaras etc and many are suggesting it's a great step forward but I see that as too little, too late.......... Eucalyptus thrives on fire & have not only dropped their seed so new trees will grow the old ones are already regenerating if you look at them.

This means that in 5 or 10 years from now the situation will be at least as bad as it was when this wildfire occurred & very possibly worse.

Fire is a part of nature & cannot & should not be prevented but it is possible to create areas that are safe & the country already has laws in place to ensure the firebreak distances but they're flouted by the world & his dog & that must change!

The ONLY way to prevent this happening again is to cut every single eucalyptus & pine within 100 metres of buildings (50 metres for lone buildings outside villages etc) & 10 metres of roadside verges, grub out every root (of those trees) & keep those firebreak areas clean of flammable materials on a permanent basis.

If the firebreak distances could be extended and penalties for infringement increased so much the better.

There is of course another issue that to me seems to have been completely ignored...... This fire caused immense loss of lives, livelihoods & property & whilst the Portuguese people have been incredibly supportive to the (surviving) victims (for which I will be eternally grateful) we're not hearing much about prosecutions of those responsible for planting their commercial woodland right up to houses & roads & I wonder why not?

It would be easy to say 'oh well, it's not their fault, they didn't know' but the truth is that ignorance is no excuse, they probably (in many cases) did know & if they didn't know, they should have done. So that argument doesn't work for me & it won't bring back the dead, rebuild the houses or recreate the livelihoods of those that suffered.
Perhaps what is needed is fire wardens to go round and check that there are no infringements and, if any are found, they are reported to the local authority or whoever and action taken. People like JohnBoy could play a role by using drones to check on less easily accessed areas.
 

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Perhaps what is needed is fire wardens to go round and check that there are no infringements and, if any are found, they are reported to the local authority or whoever and action taken. People like JohnBoy could play a role by using drones to check on less easily accessed areas.

Good idea but we do already have the GIPS/GNR/SEPNA who are supposed to be doing that very thing.

Drones would be an immense help though
 

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Good idea but we do already have the GIPS/GNR/SEPNA who are supposed to be doing that very thing.

Drones would be an immense help though
Perhaps it is time to raise merry hell about those who are failing to do what they are supposed to do but, of course, it is essential to do it soonest while the consequences of their failure is still uppermost in peoples' minds.
 

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Perhaps what is needed is fire wardens to go round and check that there are no infringements and, if any are found, they are reported to the local authority or whoever and action taken. People like JohnBoy could play a role by using drones to check on less easily accessed areas.
Whilst reporting infringements to the necessary authorities is a good idea, we have the eternal problem of conflict of interest to contend with. Many of those with the 'power' are the very landowners comitting the offence in the first place. I know of two GNR landowners locally who should be reported, but to whom?

Anyway, as for the drone idea, where do I sign up? ;)
 

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So whilst we wait for laws to be explored, legalities checked & documents put together etc I thought I'd give an update on our experiences & to say we were lucky is the understatement of the century......... I've been close to death on a number of occasions but I can honestly say I was never as close as I was on the 17th June 2017.

I'd checked the location of the fire at 1800 hours & it was a full 20 km away but my friend's house was midway between the fire & us so as soon as I got home at 1915 I reached for the phone to call him to tell him to get out and before my hand touched the phone...... it rang & it was the guy I was going to call....... he told me they were evacuating & could the come to us......... and soon after he arrived.

The first thing I told him to do was move his car so it had the house between him & the forest & the second thing I said was come & have a beer........ I hadn't finished pouring it when my wife looked out the window & said just one word & it began with F.

I looked out to see a wall of flame higher than the treetops coming at us like a steam train at a range of about 30 metres.

We grabbed the cat & dog, threw them in the Jeep & got the hell out with my friend & his wife following close behind & as we went, we had fire on both sides of us & also raining down on top of us....... I assume the fire rain was burning leaves but didn't look too hard....... oh and we could hardly breath.

We flew through the empty village and halfway up the hill road to the N236-1 a smallish burning tree fell between the back of my car & the front of my friend's car........ fortunately he's a retired fireman & knew better than to stop so he just floored the accelerator & bounced over the tree.

We raced the fire the full 7 km to Figueiro Dos Vinhos & only got in front of it as we entered the town....... first stop was the Intermarche car park where we were told by the Bombeiros (in very succinct terms) to go north & go NOW! - So we did.

The rest isn't so interesting but in brief terms, it took us 3 days to get back and fortunately the house survived with fairly minimal damage & my biggest personal loss (as opposed to financial) was the loss of my much loved flock of ducks which is ridiculously irrelevant compared to so many in my village where 11 died in the village, 3 more on the road to the N236-1 & 47 more on that road to say nothing of homes lost or damaged etc..... and most must have died within minutes of us passing the respective spots.

In the intervening weeks I've had time to check the house both with & without builders & it proved I was absolutely right to use quality materials in the build.

Bear in mind that the fire was hot enough to bend angle iron lengths & steel ladders & melt aluminium engine blocks......... my double glazed windows are a mix of UPVC & thermal break aluminium & whilst al outer panes on both shattered the internal pane survived & saved the day......... the UPVC outer frames need replacing as well as the glass units but the aluminium ones just need new glass units & there's no doubt the aluminium shutters sacrificed themselves to great effect.

In the roof I decided to opt for a blanket type material with aluminium covering rather than the cheaper blue foam because it had a higher fire resistance rating & although many roof tiles have changed colour due to the temperature, the insulation hasn't been affected at all which means the wood ceilings were also unaffected.

Our garage roofs & doors were also selected for fire resistance & although they burned out the gas bottles & much more importantly, my much loved & extremely valuable classic car remained unscathed except for a showering of ash .........although I suspect the place was water bombed by a helicopter in the nick of time.

So the moral of the story is be well insured, use good quality materials, make the right decisions VERY quickly & most importantly, have the luck of the devil! ;)

I have absolutely no doubt we escaped with less than a handful of seconds to spare.
 

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Phew! Thank you TM for taking the time to write that harrowing story. I'm sure we are all glad for you that you managed to escape but sorry for your ducks, the deer and everyone else who was not so fortunate.

Boa Sorte
 

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The ducks will or rather have already started to be replaced and I think will probably be known as the Phoenix flock.

At the moment we just have 2 Muscovy ducklings & they'll be joined later this week by 2 more from another gene pool & also 2 or 3 goslings......... I'd love to be able to get more Indian Runners as well but they're as rare as rocking horse doo doos in this area so I might need to be patient on that.

More generally, the wildlife populations have suffered dreadfully....... The forest behind my house is littered with dead deer, javali & other animals. I've put feeders & watering points out & for the 1st few days had 1 deer & 1 javali feeding but they haven't been back for 10 days so have moved on to seek greener pastures & some of my friends are telling me they're seeing deer in areas they haven't been in before so some at least survived..... though I fear it'll be several years before they repopulate this area.

Ah well....... life goes on for those of us fortunate enough to have survived & the support here is incredibly good.
 

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The ducks will or rather have already started to be replaced and I think will probably be known as the Phoenix flock.

At the moment we just have 2 Muscovy ducklings & they'll be joined later this week by 2 more from another gene pool & also 2 or 3 goslings......... I'd love to be able to get more Indian Runners as well but they're as rare as rocking horse doo doos in this area so I might need to be patient on that.

More generally, the wildlife populations have suffered dreadfully....... The forest behind my house is littered with dead deer, javali & other animals. I've put feeders & watering points out & for the 1st few days had 1 deer & 1 javali feeding but they haven't been back for 10 days so have moved on to seek greener pastures & some of my friends are telling me they're seeing deer in areas they haven't been in before so some at least survived..... though I fear it'll be several years before they repopulate this area.

Ah well....... life goes on for those of us fortunate enough to have survived & the support here is incredibly good.
Glad to hear you are getting back on your feet TM and putting a new flock together. Perhaps we could all keep a look out at local markets for those elusive Indian Runners for TM. Ears and eyes open here. :)
 

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Don't underestimate or misjudge the potential of these fires.

Yesterday was not the day I had planned thanks to yet another (deliberately started) fire. The plan was for a nice lunch, to be followed by an afternoon catching up with correspondence. Sorry Smudges but I will get round to you! Then we would pop down to Coimbra station to meet two family members returning from a relaxing holiday. We had been looking after their home while they were away and popping in every day to feed the cats.

The plan kicked off well with lunch and me settling down at the PC. Then came a call from the airport, could we go to check the house as they had been phoned with a report of a fire nearby. As we drove towards Ceira, we could clearly see the flames of the fire, recognised that they were several kilometres from the house and that the strong winds were blowing the fire in the opposite direction. In addition, following a similar fire several years ago, they had made a fire break and constructed a dual carriageway. That, in turn had a reasonable width, comparatively vegetation free area on either side. Our journey to the house was diverted as Police had closed the access road to the village, causing a lengthy diversion. On arrival, we scooped up the cats and placed them in the house and closed all the windows as asked. Then I grabbed my camera and started to film the three aircraft and a helicopter flying overhead, whilst noticing that the smoke seemed to be getting closer... much closer! Not to worry, I thought, as it was still the far side of a hill and those firebreaks. Strange though, how many of the locals were filling plastic buckets and turning on hose pipes and watering their gardens and houses. They had experienced the severe fire several years earlier and, to my mind, were just seeking reassurance.

Then several firetrucks made an appearance at the top of the street, parking alongside the house. A second helicopter hovered overhead for a while before landing on the road for a water bucket to be attached. Then off he went to join the battle. Clearly it was time to put down the camera and, with my partner, pick up a couple of hoses and call for the help of two nearby friends. I had often seen news footage of people armed with garden hoses and wondered, what on earth effect do they think that will have. But, in the face of an oncoming firestorm it's amazing how you actually react. Then suddenly all hell broke loose as the first flames appeared over the top of the hill and headed our way. I still have no idea how they jumped the gap, but within a very short time they were only 80 metres or so from the garden perimeter. The noise of the fire was incredible and only overpowered by the helicopters zooming over our heads and dropping their loads. It was all happening so close to us that we felt the spray as the water fell.

The pilots and bombeiros all did an amazing job at stopping the blaze in its tracks, ultimately saving many properties. This was an immense fire that tied up over 300 personnel and five aircraft and all contributed to a successful conclusion this morning. We will be forever grateful to the amazingly dedicated men and women of the fire and police services, both on land and in the air.

The moral of the story is clearly, NEVER underestimate what these fires can do. On first sight, I had convinced myself that it would not be a threat, but ultimately changes in wind speed and direction meant a totally unexpected outcome.

Stay safe out there people and please spare a thought for all the heroes battling away on our behalf.
 

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Yesterday was not the day I had planned thanks to yet another (deliberately started) fire. The plan was for a nice lunch, to be followed by an afternoon catching up with correspondence. Sorry Smudges but I will get round to you! Then we would pop down to Coimbra station to meet two family members returning from a relaxing holiday. We had been looking after their home while they were away and popping in every day to feed the cats.

The plan kicked off well with lunch and me settling down at the PC. Then came a call from the airport, could we go to check the house as they had been phoned with a report of a fire nearby. As we drove towards Ceira, we could clearly see the flames of the fire, recognised that they were several kilometres from the house and that the strong winds were blowing the fire in the opposite direction. In addition, following a similar fire several years ago, they had made a fire break and constructed a dual carriageway. That, in turn had a reasonable width, comparatively vegetation free area on either side. Our journey to the house was diverted as Police had closed the access road to the village, causing a lengthy diversion. On arrival, we scooped up the cats and placed them in the house and closed all the windows as asked. Then I grabbed my camera and started to film the three aircraft and a helicopter flying overhead, whilst noticing that the smoke seemed to be getting closer... much closer! Not to worry, I thought, as it was still the far side of a hill and those firebreaks. Strange though, how many of the locals were filling plastic buckets and turning on hose pipes and watering their gardens and houses. They had experienced the severe fire several years earlier and, to my mind, were just seeking reassurance.

Then several firetrucks made an appearance at the top of the street, parking alongside the house. A second helicopter hovered overhead for a while before landing on the road for a water bucket to be attached. Then off he went to join the battle. Clearly it was time to put down the camera and, with my partner, pick up a couple of hoses and call for the help of two nearby friends. I had often seen news footage of people armed with garden hoses and wondered, what on earth effect do they think that will have. But, in the face of an oncoming firestorm it's amazing how you actually react. Then suddenly all hell broke loose as the first flames appeared over the top of the hill and headed our way. I still have no idea how they jumped the gap, but within a very short time they were only 80 metres or so from the garden perimeter. The noise of the fire was incredible and only overpowered by the helicopters zooming over our heads and dropping their loads. It was all happening so close to us that we felt the spray as the water fell.

The pilots and bombeiros all did an amazing job at stopping the blaze in its tracks, ultimately saving many properties. This was an immense fire that tied up over 300 personnel and five aircraft and all contributed to a successful conclusion this morning. We will be forever grateful to the amazingly dedicated men and women of the fire and police services, both on land and in the air.

The moral of the story is clearly, NEVER underestimate what these fires can do. On first sight, I had convinced myself that it would not be a threat, but ultimately changes in wind speed and direction meant a totally unexpected outcome.

Stay safe out there people and please spare a thought for all the heroes battling away on our behalf.
The trouble is a fire might look fairly innocent and not likely to be a problem, BUT wind can feed the fire and drive it towards you very rapidly, in addition, the heat from the fire rises sucking in air and creating its own wind that feeds the fire into even greater intensity (a bit like an orgasm, really!) then wind blown ash and cinders can cause secondary fires to spring up some distance away from the main fire and the fire suddenly leaps a few hundred metres...
 

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My partner went onto the street at one point to assess the situation and did comment on the wind situation caused by the blaze. I had not noticed it, as I was pretty sheltered, surrounded by trees and a tall hedge which were getting a good soaking from a couple of hosepipes. What I will never forget though, was the incredible, roaring noise of the fire. I've not heard anything like it before and certainly do not want to be that close again.
 
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