Following our kickoff meeting in Porto, Portugal for the FireXTR project (http://www.firextr.pt/) we took a field trip to the Arouca region. This past August, Arouca experienced a 25,000 ha wildfire.
Although Portuguese houses are more fire resistant than those in North America, the landscape is nevertheless vulnerable. Pinus pinaster (maritime pine) and Eucalyptus trees with Pteridium (bracken) and Ulex europea (gorse) provide a highly flammable landscape. But this wasn’t always the case. Agricultural abandonment and ensuing afforestation has only occurred in the last 70 years. Past landscape conditions are evidenced by the extensive terracing exposed by the fire (photo below).
Although fires don’t always destroy houses, they do damage orchards, vineyards, gardens, and compromise agricultural infrastructure.