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> CAUSES FOR HUMAN IGNITIONS OF FOREST FIRES

The National Plan to Protect Forests from Fires (NPPFF), structuring plan for the defense of our forest against fires, was developed in 2005 by the Instituto Superior de Agronomia, commissioned by the Direcção Geral dos Recursos Florestais (DGRF), an institution under the Portuguese Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Fishingwhich function is, among others, promoting sustainable development of the forest resources.

The NPPFF has 5 strategic action axes. The 2nd strategic axis, named “Reduce the incidence of fires”, includes 3 objectives. The first objective - “Improving insight into the causes of fires and their motivations” – is where the research project “Causes for human ignitions of forest fires” is included. The knowledge generated by it will or should be used in national and municipal level decision making.

On July 13th 2007, a cooperation protocol was signed between the DGRF and NÚMENA – Centro de Investigação em Ciências Sociais e Humanas, endorsing this study, with the first entity being responsible for financing and follow-up, coordinated by Miguel Galante, and the second being responsible for the execution, coordinated by José Maria Pereira Coutinho, researcher at NÚMENA. The sociologists Eduardo d’Orey (FCSH-UNL), Elvira Lopes (FL-UP) and Inês Oliveira (UBI) are responsible for the fieldwork.

Nine Portuguese counties will participate in this study, for four months, distributed as follows:

1st phase: Silves, Mafra and Vila Nova de Gaia

2nd phase: Pombal, Mondim de Basto and Viana do Castelo

3rd phase: Mértola, São Pedro do Sul and Bragança.

The first priority objective in this study is Understanding the causes and motivation for igniting forest fires. The second is Understanding population’s attitudes regarding environment, forest and forest fires. And there is still a secondary objective, included in and a result of the last two, which is Finding the best method to give awareness/dissuading each population segment on the use of fire.

In order to achieve these objectives, the Delphi method will be used, as well as interviews, informal conversations and direct observation of the population. The study focuses on understanding the causes and motivations present in each county in the last 5 years, and is based mostly on the first method, in order to achieve the most reliable and consensual results possible. The specialist panel, composed of 10 to 15 people in each county, is comprised by individuals directly connected to the forest and fires, namely people responsible for the technical forest offices, elements of DGRF, GNR/SEPNA, forest and or agricultural associations, professional forest firefighters, etc. In order to complete the Delphi method, the other three methods will be used, to achieve maximum consistency in the information resulting from the second and third objectives.

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Photo of a forest fire