Fire Risk – Meeting with GNR in Caldas Da Rainha
On Wednesday 4th April 2018 Dave Moxham and Paul Shave on behalf of the PDR Owners Association (APPDR) attended a meeting in the English language organised by the Portuguese Safe Communities Association. The meeting was introduced by David Thomas of Safe Communities Portugal and presented by senior officers of the GNR (Portuguese Police) in English. The purpose of the meeting was to explain the requirement of the new Portuguese Laws relating to the prevention of Fires across all of Portugal.
The presentation centred on where the risk of fire is most likely - Forest Areas. The new law is very specific about what must be done in Forest areas which come within 50 metres of any building. A forest is any area that is predominately covered by trees of half a hectare (5000 Square Metres) or more. The law does not apply to any areas that are outside of forest areas. From the GNR definition, the areas within the Praia D’El Rey borders are considered outside of the new law and not designated as “forest”. There are some exceptions PDR Property Owners should consider however – please read on.
The GNR advised that the new law is already in effect but that fines are not yet being applied. However those individual owners or legal entities that do not comply with the new law by the 31st May 2018 can expect very heavy fines to be applied after that date. For individual owners of land that do not comply the fine will be between 280 and 10,000 euros. For Legal Entities (we believe that this may include Managed Condominiums) fines of between 1,600 and 120,000 Euros will be applied. It should be noted that as well as fines the Council will have the right to go into areas not complying with the law and remove and/or cut trees and shrubs and/or clear land and backcharge the cost of doing this to the owner.
Specific for Owners of Properties and Land in Praia D’El Rey
Mostly individual owners need not trim any trees, shrubs of hedges but should for safety ensure that any unkempt vegetation/weeds in gardens are removed, treated or maintained and not allowed to become “Brush”. All Brush must be cleared as this is a major cause of the spread of fire on the ground. Most gardens in PDR are well maintained but it is important that where properties have not been maintained or “left” that the GNR are informed so that they can with the assistance of local councils, contact the owners. A special number can be used to report such situation +351 262 830 180 (manned by the GNR in Caldas). The GNR will be looking for such unmaintained properties and they will also welcome any neighbours contacting them to report such unmaintained properties.
Owners of properties in PDR that are close to the boundaries need to pay special attention if they have a “forest” area that is 50 metres or less from any of their villas, town houses, apartments or buildings. Important to note this is from the building not the boundary wall. In these cases any trees or shrubs that are within this 50 metres radius must comply with the new law. That means there must be no trees or shrubs within 5 metres of the building (measured from the widest point of the tree or shrub not the trunk). Then the rest of the area must have a minimum gap of 4 metres between the trees remaining. If less than 4 metres they must be removed. Further any trees remaining must be cut to have a maximum height of 4 metres from ground to top. Fruit trees are exempt from this ruling. Cork trees need to have a certificate issued to be removed. Wild Pine and Eucalyptus must have increased gaps of 10 metres between them. As the owner of the land you must comply within the legal boundaries of your property. If the distance to 50 Metres goes over the boundary into another owners land that neighbouring owner MUST comply with the law. If they do not comply then they should be reported to the GNR.
Please note that if an individual owner or entity has been reported they will have 5 days to respond.
Outside of the boundaries of PDR, owners of land will be expected to clear areas in accordance with the law.
Councils are responsible for any area of “forest” that is within specific distances of all roads and will be clearing such land. We imagine this will mean some further clearing of trees on the road from Serra D’El Rei to PDR.
Click here to read the Leaflets relating to the new law. In 4 Languages.
“No matter where people are in Portugal - overall good sense must prevail where there is any situation that could be a potential cause of a fire. Individuals should make the effort to reduce the risk of fire wherever and whenever possible”.
The meeting was organised by Safe Communities Portugal - a voluntary association formed to liaise with Portuguese Government so as to communicate with foreign owners and residents. Their website http://www.safecommunitiesportugal.com/ has a wealth of information on various subjects including the new laws on Forest Fires. They have also been instrumental in liaising specifically with the GNR, Councils, Government and Bombeiros. They have a newsletter which can be received by registered on their website.
We recommend that all PDR Property Owners check that the land around their property complies with the new law which we understand is Decree Law no 19 –A/2018 16th March 2018.
It is also recommended to double check that any Property Insurances taken have no additional clauses as a result of the new legislation.
The above represents feedback from the meeting and we must emphasise that it is incumbent upon individual owners to comply with the new regulations. Please use the telephone line referenced above for further guidance (+351 262 830 180).
Paul Shave & Dave Moxham
PDR Owners Association 6th April 2018