The large rural fires of 17 of July and 15 of October 2017 in Portugal Continental had tragic consequences with the loss of human lives and several damages and losses in housing, farms, infrastructures, equipment and goods of the population, companies and public administration, adding to this the destruction of the forests and its goods and services.

Considering the unprecedented scale of those rural fires, an Independent Technical Commission (Comissão Técnica Independente, CTI) was appointed by parliament to analyse the facts. The CTI technical reports pinpoint structural failures as well as operational failures on the existing model for prevention and suppression of rural fires, and on the Civil Protection System. Namely, the first report presents recommendations focused on the need for sustainable forest management and fire prevention. On this basis, the Portuguese government started a systemic reform in the prevention and suppression of rural fires, guided by three main principles:

  • bridging up prevention and suppression in the forest fire management system;
  • professionalization and qualification of the system;
  • specialization.

The cohesive management of fire prevention and suppression, the professionalization and qualification of the system and the specialization needed for the management of rural fires call for a strong investment in Research, Development and Innovation (R&D&I) with the engagement of the higher education institutions. Furthermore, it is an unprecedented effort to bring together specialists in several research fields for developing a joint interdisciplinary and holistic approach, which merges the scientific knowledge in forest management, fire prevention and suppression, including ecological, economic, and social interactions, as well as the efforts for technical qualification of the involved parties.