The forest fires of 2018 were devastating in many parts of the world, with the ones in Paradise, California particularly terrifying. Portugal suffered too in 2018, with Monchique in the western Algarve one of the worst hit areas. More than 27,000 hectares were destroyed in a fire that lasted just over a week. Once a fire gets a hold it can be days or even weeks before they are back under control. Fortunately there were few fires in the east Algarve last year, and those that did occur were brought under control relatively quickly. The impact however on lives and the environment is still dreadful, and when you see the pictures of the aftermath of some fires you wonder if anyone or anything can ever recover.
And yet some how it does, sometimes in fact a fire can bring more life to a forest as the dead trees provide homes for wildlife and enable more sunlight to reach the forest floor, spurring new growth. What seems to be critical is the severity and duration of fire. If the soil is not too damaged then life can quickly return as it has here in the hills around Azinhal.
The fire here was in early August and already nature is recovering. And just a few metres away from the hillside damaged by the fire you wouldn’t even know a fire had passed through the area. In fact you wouldn’t even know it was 25th December in the northern hemisphere. On our traditional Christmas Day walk we were surrounded by birds, birdsong, butterflies and bees. I even spotted almond blossom!
Whilst it was wonderful to see firsthand how nature heals itself, it is worrying to learn that thanks to climate change (and an increasingly number of careless humans) wildfires are now occurring five times more often. But we can change this if we all help reduce the risk of fires and climate change, even the smallest of steps will make a difference. Given the statistics though, we should be aware what to do if caught in a fire. If you are planning to hike or go camping this year please do read this excellent article brought to my attention by Denzil. It may save your life.