_90733334_034520854 photo credit EPA Aug16

Portugal feels the brunt of Europe's wildfire season

As California faces a growing fire season with the current Blue Cut fire and others, so too does the similar climate regions of Europe.  The challenge for Europe though is that they're all occurring in the same place.

An article in today's Portugal News Online reported that the 289,113 acres (117,000 hectares) lost to wildfire in Portugal this year accounts for 53.4% of all burnt area in Europe.

Portugal's current wildfire loss is trending at four times their annual average between 2008 and 2015 due to an exceptionally dry winter and spring.

Over 176 wildfires in central and southern Portugal since early August have built up this level of loss.  Fires last week on the Portuguese island of Madeira off the northwest African coast forced the evacuation of thousands around the capital of Funchal.  That fire also claimed the lives of three elderly residents who died in their home when it caught fire.

BBC article 10Aug16_90733378_portugalmadeira464A video by the BBC from last week shows the size of the fires burning on the Portuguese mainland.  The Portuguese government activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to receive support.

Fire Departments in the UK have also lent equipment and other support to their Portuguese counterparts.   90% of fire departments in Portugal are volunteer.

We often say that wildfires are not just a “western states issue” in the United States.  The recent fires in Portugal show again that with similar climate issues, drought, home development, residential preparedness efforts, and fire department response challenges, the threat of wildfire is truly a global challenge for us all to meet.

Photo Credits: Flames around Funchal, BBC.com, pulled 18 August 16 http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37030217

Portugal Map, BBC.com, pulled 18 August 16, Madeira wildfires: Three dead as flames reach Funchal - BBC News

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Lucian Deaton
Program Manager focusing on domestic policy impacting community wildfire risks & international collaboration for Firewise USA®.

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