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Wildfire Season?

2020 Camino Guides

FooteK

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPdP to SdC, 2013; Lourdes to SdC, 2015; ??? to SdC (2020)
I have a friend who was planning to walk the CP in the fall, but is now hesitant because she has read that the fall is "wildfire season" and doesn't want to take the chance. I'd never heard of a wildfire season in Portugal that would affect one's walking the Camino. But, I never looked into it that closely. Does anyone have any information on this? Should you take it into account when you plan to walk the CP?
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
There are forest and brush fires in Portugal (and Spain) most years. As there are even in the UK despite our exquisite rainfall.

Sometimes fires coincide with Camino routes and may occasion diversion, delay or other inconvenience. Without wishing to seem rude pre-camino panic is a well known phenomena. I would no more take the possibility of being inconvenienced by fire on caminho into consideration than I would rain, wind or earth(quake) ;). All of which have occurred in Lisbon to my knowledge.

There are plenty of websites, including genuine government run ones, that will provide current fire threat status as required. I can see no reason to avoid Portugal in Autumn.
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999, now living in Santiago de C
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

Now: http://egeria.house/
Additionally to what @Tincatinker wrote: IF there is a wildfire anywhere near the Caminos, the albergues and hospitaleros will keep you informed. As far as I know, no pilgrim was hurt by a wildfire in the last few years at least, but some had to take a detour or needed to wait a few hours until a situation became clearer ...
BC SY
 

Walton

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2016 Sjpp to Sdc. 2018 Lisbon to Sdc to Finisterre. Next up hopefully VDP or Del Norte.
The problem is that many countries including Portugal and Spain have invested in growing Eucalyptus trees for timber. Eucalyptus is mostly an Australian native type of tree and if you break a leaf and rub it between the palms of your hand, you will get a highly aromatic eucalyptus smell.

In australia, all sorts of things eat eucalyptus. Beetles, caterpillers, koalas to name a few. You will never find a perfect eucalyptus leaf. In Portugal and Spain because there is nothing that is adapted to eat eucalyptus, every leaf is perfect amazing us Aussies. Every tree is tall and straight. These forests are mostly devoid of wildlife, birds and insects as I've observed,

The eucalyptus tree drops vast amounts of tree litter (dead leaves and bark mostly) underneath. In hot weather, this plant releases a fragrant but highly flammable eucalyptus gas and of course it doesn't take much (lightening strike, idiot with a match, etc) to ignite it on a hot day.

So, a fire starts in a eucalyptus area, the dry bark and litter burns readily, igniting the tree bark and the tree and sap and leaves and before long you have a wildfire. If there is a wind, a fire will be pushed in the same direction as the wind blows and if the wind is strong or the fire large, be mindful that burning ash and leaves can be blown well ahead of the main fire, to ignite more spot fires.

As Tincatinker said "There is absolutely no reason to avoid Portugal" None. Absolutely agreed,

All you need to do is avoid wildfires.

If a nearby forest is on fire, don't enter. It's that simple.

Catch a taxi and scoot on to the other side of the forest.

We experienced wildfires in September / October 2018 while walking in Portugal. We could see them in the distance and to be sure, never having walked the path before, we asked local people if it was safe to walk ahead. They were more than happy to answer our questions! We didn't need to deviate or taxi ahead. Walked the whole way.

I'd be more than happy to rewalk the Lisbon to SdC route again in peak wildfire season!

Hope this helps

Graham

PS - Memo to the Governments of Portugal and Spain - Get rid of your eucalyptus plantations. Plant local wood species instead and you'll bring back your wildlife and birds and insects.
 

FooteK

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPdP to SdC, 2013; Lourdes to SdC, 2015; ??? to SdC (2020)
The problem is that many countries including Portugal and Spain have invested in growing Eucalyptus trees for timber. Eucalyptus is mostly an Australian native type of tree and if you break a leaf and rub it between the palms of your hand, you will get a highly aromatic eucalyptus smell.

In australia, all sorts of things eat eucalyptus. Beetles, caterpillers, koalas to name a few. You will never find a perfect eucalyptus leaf. In Portugal and Spain because there is nothing that is adapted to eat eucalyptus, every leaf is perfect amazing us Aussies. Every tree is tall and straight. These forests are mostly devoid of wildlife, birds and insects as I've observed,

The eucalyptus tree drops vast amounts of tree litter (dead leaves and bark mostly) underneath. In hot weather, this plant releases a fragrant but highly flammable eucalyptus gas and of course it doesn't take much (lightening strike, idiot with a match, etc) to ignite it on a hot day.

So, a fire starts in a eucalyptus area, the dry bark and litter burns readily, igniting the tree bark and the tree and sap and leaves and before long you have a wildfire. If there is a wind, a fire will be pushed in the same direction as the wind blows and if the wind is strong or the fire large, be mindful that burning ash and leaves can be blown well ahead of the main fire, to ignite more spot fires.

As Tincatinker said "There is absolutely no reason to avoid Portugal" None. Absolutely agreed,

All you need to do is avoid wildfires.

If a nearby forest is on fire, don't enter. It's that simple.

Catch a taxi and scoot on to the other side of the forest.

We experienced wildfires in September / October 2018 while walking in Portugal. We could see them in the distance and to be sure, never having walked the path before, we asked local people if it was safe to walk ahead. They were more than happy to answer our questions! We didn't need to deviate or taxi ahead. Walked the whole way.

I'd be more than happy to rewalk the Lisbon to SdC route again in peak wildfire season!

Hope this helps

Graham

PS - Memo to the Governments of Portugal and Spain - Get rid of your eucalyptus plantations. Plant local wood species instead and you'll bring back your wildlife and birds and insects.
Maybe Portugal and Spain should import some koalas?
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
Maybe Portugal and Spain should import some koalas?
We don’t have any to spare!
I agree that eucalypts belong in Australia and should only be grown In forests elsewhere for very compelling reasons.
 

LesR

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2017, 2018; Camino Portuguese 2019
I agree that eucalypts belong in Australia and should only be grown In forests elsewhere for very compelling reasons.
If I were a Portuguese forester and wanted to grow hardwood timber, then the Blue Gum would be my choice. As noted by another contributor, eucalypt forests in much of Europe are free of many of the pests and diseases that constrain the growth of eucalypt trees in Australia, and the growth rates, straight grain and long length of the timber, and self-pruning growth habit make the Blue Gum an obvious choice. Fire management is a responsibility that comes with planting eucalypts - in Portugal/Spain and in Australia.

Timber production for human use can be a very compelling reason for planting eucalypts.

On the other hand, if I wanted to conserve native wildlife, then I wouldn't plant eucalyptus.

As for forest fires, I agree with earlier advice - if there is a fire going, don't go there and walk around or take a bus/taxi past it. Fires generally advertise their presence fairly well and, with a bit of planning, as easily avoided...
 
Last edited:

Zac123

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Soon
I have a friend who was planning to walk the CP in the fall, but is now hesitant because she has read that the fall is "wildfire season" and doesn't want to take the chance. I'd never heard of a wildfire season in Portugal that would affect one's walking the Camino. But, I never looked into it that closely. Does anyone have any information on this? Should you take it into account when you plan to walk the CP?

 

LesR

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2017, 2018; Camino Portuguese 2019
Interesting, but please read the fine print...

"The data shown on this page represents information on “fire alerts” or “hotspots” detected by thermal sensors on different NASA satellites resulting in two fire products, labeled MODIS and VIIRS throughout this report. It is important to distinguish fire alerts from actual fires. A fire alert is the detection of a thermal anomaly from a surface that is produces a substantial amount of heat, which could range from a fire to a hot asphalt road. Although the occurrence of false positives is relatively low (7% for MODIS Version 6), they can still occur, especially in areas with more man-made surfaces. The accuracy of the alerts within forests varies with the size of the fire and tree canopy density. Additionally, GFW reports all fire alerts and does not filter by any alert confidence level, while some other platforms might. "
 

Zac123

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Soon
Interesting, but please read the fine print...

"The data shown on this page represents information on “fire alerts” or “hotspots” detected by thermal sensors on different NASA satellites resulting in two fire products, labeled MODIS and VIIRS throughout this report. It is important to distinguish fire alerts from actual fires. A fire alert is the detection of a thermal anomaly from a surface that is produces a substantial amount of heat, which could range from a fire to a hot asphalt road. Although the occurrence of false positives is relatively low (7% for MODIS Version 6), they can still occur, especially in areas with more man-made surfaces. The accuracy of the alerts within forests varies with the size of the fire and tree canopy density. Additionally, GFW reports all fire alerts and does not filter by any alert confidence level, while some other platforms might. "

See this site (portuguese):
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
I have a friend who was planning to walk the CP in the fall, but is now hesitant because she has read that the fall is "wildfire season" and doesn't want to take the chance. I'd never heard of a wildfire season in Portugal that would affect one's walking the Camino. But, I never looked into it that closely. Does anyone have any information on this? Should you take it into account when you plan to walk the CP?
I've walked a couple of times through wildfire areas in Europe, and the fact is that you can almost always just detour around or even between the fire areas -- it can be a good occasion to choose tarmac rather than trail.

This is not always so easy in for example Australia or America, but one should avoid projecting what the consequences of fires would be in those places with what they are in far more densely populated and agricultural Europe.

The only real consequence is that you will have to avoid any short cuts through any of the actual wilderness areas, of which there are really not that many, pretty much none on the main routes ; and on any of these main Camino routes, such fires would be extremely unlikely to affect anyone in any significant fashion ; and even then, next to never in any threatening manner.

If you avoid sleeping rough in nature (i.e. outside at least a village) and any wilderness hiking short-cuts in an active wildfires area, you'll have little to worry about.
 
Camino(s) past & future
None yet; perhaps the Portugese (2021?)
PS - Memo to the Governments of Portugal and Spain - Get rid of your eucalyptus plantations. Plant local wood species instead and you'll bring back your wildlife and birds and insects.
The Portuguese government is working on this, but it's difficult given the rural areas of the country being so poor. Eucalyptus has been a fast-growing, easy-to-look-after crop, cut regularly to provide pulp for papermaking. New regulations to curtail replanting, or new plantings, have been very unpopular in the smaller towns and villages, in spite of the horrific fires the last few years. I imagine the same is true in Spain.
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
Eucalypts were supposed to be the solution to the expanding impact of indigenous diseases in the Chestnut plantations that had provided nuts, fuel and construction timber for centuries. Sadly poor forest management and a failure to recognise or manage fire risk has manifested in Iberia and tragically in Australasia over the last couple of decades.
 
Camino(s) past & future
None yet; perhaps the Portugese (2021?)
"Poor forest management" is unfortunately the name of the game in much of rural Portugal. One of the characteristics of the burnt eucalyptus you see everywhere is the ability to resprout from nothing. Three years on from the worst of the forest fires, one sees these plantations regrowing with essentially no oversight from the landowners, as far as I can tell from what I've seen along the roads and the railroad.
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
The Portuguese government is working on this, but it's difficult given the rural areas of the country being so poor. Eucalyptus has been a fast-growing, easy-to-look-after crop, cut regularly to provide pulp for papermaking. New regulations to curtail replanting, or new plantings, have been very unpopular in the smaller towns and villages, in spite of the horrific fires the last few years. I imagine the same is true in Spain.
In Spain the " eucaliptus issue" affects mainly to Galicia. The regional government (Xunta) has recently requalified the land and in many fields it is now not allowed to replant pines , eucalytus or any other tree for timber after cutting. The result is that the price of those fields has fallen down dramatically.
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
New story:

Important rules in Portugal against fire.
10 mts cleared of bush and trees each side of roads is a lot of work but it is safer of course. In Galicia is 4 mts each side. We also have more than 90% of the land in private property but don't have that interesting rural fire service.
In Galicia the land dedicated to timber trees will be reduced because the new laws.
 
Camino(s) past & future
None yet; perhaps the Portugese (2021?)
In Galicia the land dedicated to timber trees will be reduced because the new laws.
When in North America, I'm in the Pacific Northwest, near Vancouver. Galicia is much more like the PNW than like central Portugal. So is the most northern bit of Portugal--say north of Viana do Castelo.

Definitely a fire risk in the summer, but nothing like the hot, dry conditions of the central area of Portugal--say east of Barquinha, Tomar and Coimbra, that had the horrendous fires and is full of eucalyptus and umbrella pine forests. Here, the Iberian peninsula's hot summers are shielded from coastal weather by the ranges of hills and mountains.The oceanside environment of northwestern Iberia, near to the Atlantic, is much more moderate.

The 10-m road margin rule in Portugal makes a lot of sense. Now for some enforcement! We've seen plenty of side roads where the trees still grow right to the margins.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
When in North America, I'm in the Pacific Northwest, near Vancouver. Galicia is much more like the PNW than like central Portugal. So is the most northern bit of Portugal--say north of Viana do Castelo.

Definitely a fire risk in the summer, but nothing like the hot, dry conditions of the central area of Portugal--say east of Barquinha, Tomar and Coimbra, that had the horrendous fires and is full of eucalyptus and umbrella pine forests. Here, the Iberian peninsula's hot summers are shielded from coastal weather by the ranges of hills and mountains.The oceanside environment of northwestern Iberia, near to the Atlantic, is much more moderate.
As I've said before, a major divergence between Europe and North America is that so much more of the terrain here is rural or semi-rural -- and so it's less easy for it to become wildfire land, though some smaller scope ones are always possible, but they're usually a lot more easily contained and controlled than a full-on wildfire.

To the extent that it's sometimes not even necessary for the firefighters to close hiker paths that may pass just a few hundred yards away from an active, burning fire !! And a few times I've hiked through terrain which was still smoking.

A great difference from that general situation though is in Portugal and much of southern Spain, where there actually are some extensive areas of actual wilderness, not just the mini-wilderness areas that the Francès passes through ; also the Pyrenees and the Alps (I live in one of those mountain wildfire risk areas ; there was a hugely devastating one just a couple of years after my family first moved down here, that the mountain vegetation still has not fully recovered from decades later, a lot of the topsoil having just burnt into ash & dust and blown or washed away).
 

Marie_pri

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2018 Camino Frances
The problem is that many countries including Portugal and Spain have invested in growing Eucalyptus trees for timber. Eucalyptus is mostly an Australian native type of tree and if you break a leaf and rub it between the palms of your hand, you will get a highly aromatic eucalyptus smell.

In australia, all sorts of things eat eucalyptus. Beetles, caterpillers, koalas to name a few. You will never find a perfect eucalyptus leaf. In Portugal and Spain because there is nothing that is adapted to eat eucalyptus, every leaf is perfect amazing us Aussies. Every tree is tall and straight. These forests are mostly devoid of wildlife, birds and insects as I've observed,

The eucalyptus tree drops vast amounts of tree litter (dead leaves and bark mostly) underneath. In hot weather, this plant releases a fragrant but highly flammable eucalyptus gas and of course it doesn't take much (lightening strike, idiot with a match, etc) to ignite it on a hot day.

So, a fire starts in a eucalyptus area, the dry bark and litter burns readily, igniting the tree bark and the tree and sap and leaves and before long you have a wildfire. If there is a wind, a fire will be pushed in the same direction as the wind blows and if the wind is strong or the fire large, be mindful that burning ash and leaves can be blown well ahead of the main fire, to ignite more spot fires.

As Tincatinker said "There is absolutely no reason to avoid Portugal" None. Absolutely agreed,

All you need to do is avoid wildfires.

If a nearby forest is on fire, don't enter. It's that simple.

Catch a taxi and scoot on to the other side of the forest.

We experienced wildfires in September / October 2018 while walking in Portugal. We could see them in the distance and to be sure, never having walked the path before, we asked local people if it was safe to walk ahead. They were more than happy to answer our questions! We didn't need to deviate or taxi ahead. Walked the whole way.

I'd be more than happy to rewalk the Lisbon to SdC route again in peak wildfire season!

Hope this helps

Graham

PS - Memo to the Governments of Portugal and Spain - Get rid of your eucalyptus plantations. Plant local wood species instead and you'll bring back your wildlife and birds and insects.
Thanks for writing this, and that explains why when I saw our trees in spain I could not understand why they were lusher and so so much taller than any I have seen at home. (sorry , off topic)
 

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