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Reforesting Portugal with “firefighting trees”

 
Burra Maluca
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Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
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UTAD (the university of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro) have stressed the need to reforest with “árvores bombeiros”, or firefighting trees and is suggesting birch, oak and chestnut: the arguments being that they have a lot of leaves and keep the environment relatively humid.

Full article here

This photo graphically illustrates how farms with traditional trees are far more fire resistant than the eucalyptus plantations, taken from this this Portuguese article



According to the article, the mayor of the region is calling on the government to impost limits to the planting of eucalyptus, which 'burned like gunpowder while the areas that had indigenous trees worked much better as a barrier to fire, for these species show a greater fire resistance'

This photo was taken a few years ago on land very close to me after a fire which spread to our own land and burned out a couple of acres.  I think I need to get a few more fire resistant trees planted and set an example!

 
Andre Lemos
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Location: Castelo Branco, Portugal
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Hi Burra,
that eden amongst the ashes is a very powerfull image, i would like to know the owner of that land!

A fire/wind/animal fence can be made of fruit trees, any of them
 
João Carneiro
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Location: Portugal, Zone 9
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This really sounds pretty romantic, but... that won't take care of the problem. Not in Portugal.

There is a whole economy thriving on forest fires. If you can't break the money cycle, you can't solve the problem, but... i guess you can plant trees anyway, no harm comes from that .

I have been in the middle of a couple of forest fires, one of them surrounded my family's village and burn out everything around for miles. The fire was as high as 7 meters(above that, really thick smoke). A couple of miles away from the fire, the air was so dry that it was not dificult to ignite anything at all besides dirt and rocks. Firemen took off to a 'safe' distance leaving the locals behind. Only stayed the one's that could handle the situation, but clearly with their lives on the line. In their madness, they managed to save the village, but at the cost of their sanity, it took them years just to surpass the trauma, a lifetime to recover from the financial and ecological loss.

If you have been there, you understand what happens, if you live there or your family does, you'll know the impact/desolation/loss first hand.

So i really invite people that come to me talking about forest fires in the city, to grab a dozen jerrycan's of fresh water, some food, and set sail to the affected regions to give out some support to the people on the ground, firemen included. That does give them some insight on what happens and what's involved.

But if you do want to get some answers and takle with it at the source, please do follow the money...

ps.: I could talk about this for a long time, but in my experience, i have come to realise that in this matter it is better to let people experience things themselves and take their own conclusions rather than providing them with the biased output from my own.
 
Burra Maluca
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Just for reference, I don't live in the city.  I live in fire country, surrounded by eucalyptus, I've had my land on fire, and I've evacuated my son from fires, though my husband refused to leave and stayed on the land helping fight the fire.  I've had to make decisions like 'Do I set the donkeys free so they can take their own chances, or do I ensure they can't reach the railway or a major road where they might cause an accident?' I know what it's like! 

I think putting limits on the planting of eucalyptus, as is being proposed in Arouca where that photo was taken, and encouraging planting of more fire resistant trees instead could help significantly. 

This was the view from my door - the fire had reached the bottom part of my land and we were taking decisions on whether to fight or flee.



View from behind the house (that's the old roof...)



When the sun looks like this, it's time to think of leaving!  By this point there were hot ashes floating around and the risk of new fires starting anywhere they might land was seriously high.



This is our neighbour's land, taken the next day.  His is the green bit.  The fire took out the eucalyptus  beyond but stopped at his boundary.



On the other side of his land, he did have a few eucalyptus - they were taken out.



The pines burn easily too, but not as well as the eucalyptus.



We'd just helped him set this bee hive up a couple of weeks before and were amazed it had survived the fire.  Turned out a fireman had lifted up the whole thing and moved it to safety, then returned it to it's original position when the fire was out. 



We kept finding roots on fire for days afterwards.



And, just to fan the flames, here's a photo of one of the biggest employers in the area - the paper factory that processes all the eucalyptus.  To make toilet paper. 



So, how do we teach people to wash their butts with water and grow food instead of inflammables?  Without talking about politics of course, because that's cider press material...

 
João Carneiro
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Location: Portugal, Zone 9
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When i was refering to people in the city, i definitively wasn't thinking of you but to the inumerous people that cross my path every day as i do live in the city. But i did enjoyed your update on the topic

About the political thing, i really bypass as much as i can, i have spent unsurmountable amounts of energy trying to change things that maybe are way out of my reach(hey, i was younger and dumb), so these day's i settle into looking up to people like ghandi and francis and making the best of things without reaching the point of giving up on my beliefs.

A couple of weeks ago i wrote a very comprehensive and concise rebuttal to an article presented on a local and very reputed technology website(i usually hang around in the foruns of the community built around that website giving a hand to people). They were actualy promoting the achievements(a biomass plant instalation on the council) of a local politician, and for some reason that might be related to this previous statement, they censored my contribution.

To me, this was just another reminder that when people have some strong bias influencing their better judgement, we really cannot trust them to stay focused on the matter at hand and have a clean debate.

I am heavily biased in this forest fires situation, even so because a big part of my family works/explores woodlands. So that being said, it is obvious that my better judgement is also compromised.

So speaking of trees, oak and chestnut are realy my favourites, i also have a corner in my heart to "sobreiro"(Quercus suber - the cork tree).

I actually dream recurrently of planting a whole hill of chestnuts and "sobreiros", as i see it, it is a very rational approach to anyone that has some land and wants to take care(set up) of their grandchildren.

I will, in my lifetime, achieve this small undertaking.
 
João Carneiro
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Location: Portugal, Zone 9
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Still about forestfires, just found this sample that seems pretty good:



edit: tried to get this to embed the video at the right minute, clearly without success. The part i was refering to is at 24:10.

The documentary as a whole was interesting, but i found that piece about the fire familiar.

About your question:

Burra Maluca wrote:So, how do we teach people to wash their butts with water and grow food instead of inflammables?


I really don't have an answer to give you, but it seems to me that the whole thing is way out of reach on a big perspective, maybe there are some small steps along the way we can achieve as individuals without disturbing the peace.

 
Alder Burns
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Here in California (also a Mediterranean climate, fire-prone ecosystem in general) I and others have long suspected that forestry agencies set forest fires deliberately, since there is a clause in the law permitting "salvage logging" of fire-killed timber. Of course this is unnecessary in plantations, but here there is still a lot of otherwise protected native forest.
It is also common knowledge that the eucalypts and conifers, as well as anything else resinous or aromatic, are prime problems and definitely to be avoided around human habitations.  Even olives qualify.  Unfortunately these are often the trees most adapted to the climate. 
Many lessons remain to be learned from the practices of Native peoples on this landscape and others, who would practice "cool burns" in damper weather to clear dry grass and weeds and kill back underbrush and dense saplings repeatedly, leaving a parklike landscape of grass, low underbrush, and well-spaced tall trees.....a landscape productive of food-plants and animals, and amenable to quick grass fires and resistant to destructive crown fires.  In essence...the problem can be the solution...
     I would imagine from reading about it, that in Portugal and Spain, open forest ecosystems based around oak would be more fire-resistant than plantations of any kind, and such forests would give multiple yields of acorns, cork, truffles, and more...
 
Liz Hoxie
Posts: 106
Location: Ellisforde, WA
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I'm in zone 5a. Lots of fires. I was about to give up my idea of trees until I saw this thread. Anybody know what I should search to find fire-resistant trees hardy to 5a?
Before this, I was considering butternuts for the humans and honey locusts, mulberries, and possibly seaberry to share with the goats. I was considering putting a named self-fruiting variety of American Persimmon for shade/fruit in the goat pen.
 
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