LISBON, May 14 (Xinhua) -- Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa appealed on Monday for greater restraint in lighting fires in rural areas to reduce the risk of wildfires.
"Less fuel, less risky behavior and more vigilance, these are the responsibilities we must all face up to," said Costa, as reported by the Lusa Portuguese News Agency.
The prime minister was speaking at the Ministry of Agriculture in Lisbon, at the presentation of the National Program for the Reduction of Rural Fires and Ignitions.
Costa said that 98 percent of wildfires in Portugal are of human origin.
"Some are criminal in origin, started intentionally and feloniously, but many others are purely and simply the result of negligence, neglect and thoughtlessness on the part of every one of us. That's why along with clearing the scrub, it's just as important that we avoid thoughtless actions that cause unwanted tragedies," he said.
Costa was referring to the smallholder tradition of lighting small fires to burn waste or clear land. In hot, dry weather these fires can easily get out of control.
More than 100 people died and over 100,000 hectares were destroyed by wildfires in Portugal in 2017.
With the hot summer months now approaching, a period most vulnerable to the spread of wildfires, the government is upping its efforts to prevent a repeat scenario.
Besides encouraging greater restraint from the populace, the government also announced more vigilance. There will be an extra 55 rangers in national parks and 100 more officers from the National Republican Guard (GNR), Portugal's rural police force, on patrol. The armed forces will also monitor rural areas from the air.
To this end, cooperation agreements were signed between the Institute of Nature and Forest Conservation (ICNF), the National Association of Portuguese Municipalities (ANMP) and the armed forces.