The Secretary of State for Civil Protection, Patrícia Gaspar said that “everything points to the summer of 2023 being very complex” in terms of forest fires, but assured that the Government is “doing its homework very committed and responsible” to face the coming period.
“This is a problem that affects not only Portugal. It affects all countries in the Mediterranean basin and now also other countries that until now have not dealt with this matter. Therefore, climate change has a direct influence on this and we obviously have to take these issues into account in the preparation we do for each fire season, because the fire season no longer exists and we know that at any time of the year we can have these situations”, said Patrícia Gaspar.
At the headquarters of the United Nations (UN) in New York, where she participated in a high-level meeting on the mid-term review of the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, the Secretary of State highlighted the work that has been developed by the various spheres of the executive.
“There are several dimensions here that come together to ensure that we are as prepared as possible to face yet another difficult summer ahead. We have been working on the issue of prevention for several years, preparing our territories, (…) in create communities better prepared to face these situations, not only at the time of response, but above all in what is called the resilience of the territories, that is, guaranteeing that the forest is intervened, that the forest paths, the forest spaces around the houses, around the agglomerations”, he indicated.
In terms of the device that will respond to forest fires, Patrícia Gaspar said that this year it is “more robust” than in 2022, although the trend is for less expressive increases each year.
According to the Secretary of State, Portugal has a seasonal device that is prepared to face what are “normal summer days”, having, however, the “capacity and flexibility” to guarantee a reinforced period in which the ” risk scale”.
Australian experts on forest fires argue that firefighter commanders in Portugal should have more adequate training and “more experience” in managing large fires.
A report made by four Australian experts who were in Portugal for about three weeks in November and now published by the Agency for the Integrated Management of Rural Fires (AGIF), advances that the way in which Civil Protection is appointing commanders to lead the operations on the ground is leading “to poor results in forest fire suppression”.
Asked about this assessment, Patrícia Gaspar refused to go into detail about the conclusions of the report but stressed that Portugal has made a “huge bet in the area of training and training” of its firefighters.
“If there is an area where we have managed to evolve over the last few years, it is in the organization and training of fire brigades, not only in terms of material means, but also in terms of training and organization itself, not only of the commands, but of all the firefighters who are present in the various devices,” he said.
“It is a continuous process. (…) We are in a phase of great change, largely the result of this climate crisis. We currently have state-of-the-art fires, with behaviors that were not seen 10 or 20 years ago. And firefighters in Portugal , Spain, France, Greece, Chile… they are all in a permanent learning process”, evaluated Patrícia Gaspar.
The Australian experts, who were in Portugal as part of a project that is part of the AGIF exchange program and funded by the Rotary International foundation, also consider that agents of the National Authority for Emergency and Civil Protection (ANEPC) may “not be the most appropriate, duly qualified and experienced to carry out prolonged attacks on forest fires”, as this situation was demonstrated in fires that broke out last year.
During her visit to the UN, between Thursday and today, the Secretary of State for Civil Protection participated in a meeting in which she reflected on the conclusions and recommendations of the Mid-Term Review of the Sendai Framework and evaluated the changes and new challenges that have emerged since 2015.
In an interview with Lusa, Patrícia Gaspar classified the event as “extremely important” and found that policies related to reducing the risk of catastrophe “have definitely become the agenda and are a priority at this time”.
“This is a big paradigm shift in the way countries around the world and also the United Nations themselves are facing this issue. (…) . We are perfectly aware, in global terms, that vulnerabilities have increased and that we are more and more likely – in various parts of the world – to have more complex and larger events and international cooperation is absolutely critical in this matter. , noted.
On Thursday, Patrícia Gaspar also participated in a parallel event promoted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and by the Office for Disaster Risk Reduction of the United Nations (UN DRR), entitled “Reducing the risk of disasters in countries affected by multidimensional crises”, and in the plenary session entitled “Making suitable paths for humans and nature”.
One of the aspects highlighted by the Secretary of State was the issue of funding and the importance of taking this issue not only to the public sector, but increasingly also to the private sector.
These events were accompanied by several bilateral meetings, such as those held today with the United Nations Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, and with Member States of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP).