Rural Fires

The "Rural Fires" fact sheet reports on the number of fires occurred in mainland Portugal and the total burnt area, as well as the area burnt in protected areas, identifying their root causes.


Rural fires are one of the main obstacles to the sustainability of the forest and of the ecosystems that are associated with it, causing its degradation, as well as an imbalance in the provisions of goods and services, both of an economic and social nature, and of an environmental nature.

The total area burnt per year shows a high inter-annual variability, which is closely related to the meteorological severity witnessed in each year and has been presenting an upward trend since the mid-1980's, reaching a maximum in the first decade of the 21st century. 

Between 2008 and 2017, there was an average of 21.926 forest fires per year, corresponding to 140,620 hectares of burnt area, 63,860 (45%) of which were forest stands, and 67,622 hectares (48%) were bushes and natural pastures while 9,098 hectares (7%) of agricultural area were also affected.

Maritime pine and eucalyptus are the species which have suffered most severely, corresponding to 82% of the area of forest burnt in the aforementioned period. This situation has been contributing to a sharp reduction in the area of maritime pine (263,000 hectares less between 1995 and 2010) and to an increase in the area of bushes, according to data from the 6th National Forest Inventory.

The rural fire risk is assessed based on the Daily Severity Index (DSR) - derived from the Fire Weather Index (FWI) - which is intended to represent the difficulty to control a rural fire, is directly associated with the efforts required for fire suppression.

This fact sheet concerns mainland Portugal and shall be updated on an annual basis.

Objectives and targets: 

The National Strategy for Forests, in line with the National Plan for the Defence of the Forest Against Fires, comprises strategic objectives that include the increase of the forest's resilience against forest fires and the reduction of the incidence of forest fires; the specific objectives and the targets set for the period 2013-2018 are the following:

  • Reduction of the annual burnt area of forests composed of forest stands to a number lower than 0.8% of the forested area composed of forest stands (25,384 hectares);
  • Significant reduction of the number of fires with a burnt area greater than one hectare;
  • Elimination of fires with areas greater than 1,000 hectares;
  • Reduction, to less than 75, of the number of active fires lasting more than 24 hours;
  • Reduction of the number of re-ignitions to less than 0.5% of the total number of events.
Progress analysis:
Last update: 
Wednesday, 5 June, 2019