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deadlines and rules to avoid fines

A land clearing is essential to prevent fires. More than a responsibility of the owners, it is also an obligation that, if not fulfilled, can be quite expensive.

Every year, images of forest fires surrounding villages are repeated. And, many times, complaints arise about the lack of land cleaning in these areas. This despite the existence of legislation that requires fuel management in these areas.

Fuel management is, after all, as simple as cutting weeds, bushes and trees near buildings or settlements. By doing so, you will be preventing the fire from spreading vertically (that is, from the grass to the bush and to the treetops) and horizontally, burning everything around.

If the land is cleared, the fire has less to expand. Residential areas are more protected and fire fighting is facilitated. Ultimately, land clearing can save lives in addition to saving assets.

Know the rules and learn how to clear your land.

What is the deadline for land clearing?

This year, the Deadline for land clearing ends April 30. As of this date, City Councils can take over the management of fuel on private land, with non-compliant owners having to pay the respective expense.

In that case, owners have to allow access to their land. And the municipalities can resort to the security forces to guarantee “the coercive execution of the work that proves necessary”. That is, they can ask the police for help to ensure that there is no impediment to cleaning.

If you are aware of any situation in which the owner is neglecting this obligation, you should contact the City Council or the GNR. You can also call 808 200 520 or fill out this form on the GNR website.

Inspection starts in May

The Government has already released a list of 998 priority parishes for inspection of fuel management. That is, from May 1, inspection will be tightened by the responsible entities.

Between the 1st and the 31st of May, inspection takes place on land next to buildings in rural areas and population centers, campsites, industrial parks, logistics platforms and sanitary landfills in forest areas.

In June, it will be the turn of road and rail networks, as well as lines for transporting and distributing electricity and transporting natural gas.

Who has to clear the land?

There are several entities that must clean the forest. For example, with electricity poles and cables, the distribution company is responsible. On the side lanes of roads and railways, the respective management entities are responsible for clearing the land.

However, in most cases, this task falls to the ownerslessees, usufructuaries or other entities that hold them.

Thus, these people or companies are responsible for cleaning land next to homes, shipyards, warehouses, workshops, factories or other equipment. Fuel management should be done in a range of 50 meters around these buildings.

Fines for not clearing land

The lack of land clearing implies the payment of fines that can reach 5,000 euros for individuals and to 25,000 euros in the case of legal persons.

How to clear land?

It is mandatory to cut weeds and weeds in a 50 meter protection range around buildings such as houses, shipyards, warehouses or workshops, inserted in rural areas. The distance is measured from the exterior masonry of the building.

Trees and shrubs that are less than five meters of the building must also be cut.

Tree branches must not be above roofs. All branches up to four meters above ground have to be cut. Trees must be at least four meters each other. In the case of pine and eucalyptus trees, this distance will have to be 10 meters.

Around villages, campsites, industrial parks, logistics platforms and sanitary landfills, land clearing and tree cutting must be carried out within a 100 meters. The first trees cannot be closer than five meters from the houses.

According to the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF), the maximum height of vegetation must take into account the percentage of soil cover.

Percentage of land cover Maximum height of vegetation
Less than 20% 100 cm
Between 20% and 50% 40 cm
More than 50% 20 cm
Source: ICNF

The width of the lanes can be changed by 50% depending on the danger and risk of rural fire. As these changes can be made at a regional level, it is important to inquire with the municipality where the land is located.

The exceptions

Properly maintained gardens and agricultural areas (as long as they are not fallow or permanent pasture) are not subject to land clearance rules.

Legally protected trees, such as the cork oak and the holm oak, can only be cut with authorization from the ICNF. There are still public interest treeswhich must also be protected.

How to protect your home in the countryside?

Even if you don’t have a land with weeds, if you live in the countryside or in an area with vegetation, you should be careful.

Therefore, it is important that, around the house, there is a strip of one to two meters with non-flammable flooring. You should also avoid accumulating firewood or other flammable materials near the house. This also means clearing all vegetation that, in the event of a fire, could serve as fuel for the fire.

Cleaning roofs and placing a spark arrestor net are other ways to protect against wildfires.

Make sure the hoses and sprinkler system are working. In summer and on drier days, stay informed about the risk of fire in your area. Updated information can be consulted on the IPMA website.

If your home has a private access road, the fuel management lane should be at least 10 meters on either side.

Land clearing in cities

Although vegetated land is more common in rural areas, the law also applies in rural and forested areas adjacent to urban areas.

Therefore, there must be a protection strip of 100 meters around the population centers. Especially because these areas are at high risk, which makes it even more important to clean the land.

In addition, within urban areas, there may be woods or land with brambles that are not properly cleaned. In these cases, it is important to alert the competent authorities or the owner of this situation.

If you are aware of a forest or land to be cleared, you should contact the City Council or call 808 200 520.

Article originally published in July 2019. Last updated in April 2023.

  • Portuguese Republic: Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests Portugal Chama land clearing
  • Electronic Republic Gazette: Decree-Law No. 82/2021 – Establishes the Integrated Management System for Rural Fires in mainland Portugal and defines its operating rules
  • Electronic Republic Gazette: Order No. 3780/2023 – Proceeds with the identification of priority parishes for the purposes of supervising fuel management in 2023.

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