The numbers have already started to increase in 2020, after a recent forest fire that hit the municipality of Vila do Bispo at the end of June, and one that hit the municipality of Silves earlier this month.
Taking into account that a fire affecting 100 square kilometers (km2) is officially regarded as ‘large’, and how ‘medium’ fire affects an area of ??at least 10 km2, according to data from the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF), between 1975 and 2019, six major fires and 15 medium fires have occurred in the Algarve.
The total area burned in these 21 events totals around 2000 km2, that is equal to two fifths (2/5) of the total area of ??the region. The map below shows the distribution of the 21 ‘large’ and ‘medium-sized’ fires referred to and the increased colour intensity represents the occurrence of more than one fire in the same area during the interval studied.
The year 2003 was the worst in terms of the total burnt area, with 660.64 km2 going up in flames, followed by the years 2018 and 2012. 2004 was the year with the most events (four), while in each of the years 1991, 1993, 1995, 2001 and 2016 there were always two events. If we look at the variation of the total burnt areas, year by year, it is evident that after the beginning of the 21st century, the data presents the three most devastating years.
In a year-on-year analysis, between 1975 and 2019, it is possible to compare the total burned areas and the affected counties (see table).
Years not included in this list are those in which no major or medium fire occurred.
The municipality of Monchique has been affected nine times, while those in Aljezur and Portimão have been affected six times. Silves is the next municipality in this ranking, with five events in 44 years.
The forest fire that hit Vila do Bispo and pinched Aljezur and Lagos in late June extended over an area of ??23.13 km2, and should therefore be considered as another medium-sized fire in the Algarve.
Based on data from the General Directorate of the Territory, almost half of the recently burned area was occupied by cork oak, about a quarter with brushwood and about a tenth with stone pines. A significant part of that burnt area had not been recorded since 1975, while a smaller part had burned in 1982.
Credit to the Barlavento newspaper