It’s time for sharing

In these times of change, of liquid modernity, Earth Observation technologies are already a reality in day-to-day fire and forest management.

The National Plan for Integrated Rural Fire Management (see RCM no. 45-A/2020) states that consensus was reached after the tragic fires that ravaged the country in 2017: the Independent Technical Commission identified systemic weaknesses, some of which are chronic and have been long identified, such as lack of preventative measures or failure to integrate knowledge in the management of operations.

Four years later, there is full awareness of the need for quality information to be updated and broadly available. The actors of the Integrated Rural Fire Management System (SGIFR) also agree that information about the characterization of the territory is crucial to the success of operations.

In these times of change, of liquid modernity, Earth Observation technologies are already a reality in day-to-day fire and forest management. In the near future we can expect that they will gain even greater prominence, significantly improving the efficiency of the entire process chain of the SGIFR. Namely, they will support the planning of fuel management and inspection actions, the monitoring and detection of fires, and the suppression and recovery of burned areas, among other applications.

But the change does not stop at the technological component: the spirit of sharing also gains traction. Public entities of the SGIFR, such as the Directorate General of the Territory and the Portuguese Institute of Sea and Atmosphere, use data acquired by satellites to produce information and share it openly with the entire community. Having information available is important, but it’s fundamental to develop tools capable of managing this information and transforming it into knowledge accessible to all (public entities and owners). This knowledge-sharing capacity will be an important contribution to fire risk management, as well as optimizing forest management, allowing forest owners to increase income, and thus benefiting the entire value chain.

Information-sharing and collaboration benefit everyone. A close articulation between SGIFR entities, Portugal Space, and the ecosystem and value chain of the space sector in Portugal, will allow the inclusion of new knowledge and the continuous improvement of the quality of information that supports decisions.

Equally important: the visibility that space technologies give to the agroforestry sector may be a way to attract new people with differentiated skills. With rare exceptions, this sector is far from the minds of the youth – but in the future, they are the ones who will need to coexist with fire. They already have an innate taste for technology. If we can bring their awareness to the importance of the forest on a social, ecological and economic level, we will be successful.

As we approach the Christmas season, I leave here a tip to raise awareness among the young ones. Why not start decorating a real fir tree, instead of buying a new plastic tree that must be flown halfway around the world until it reaches our house? There are several local initiatives that provide trees, which are cut in properly planned forestry operations, ultimately benefiting our domestic forests.

Arlindo Santos
21 of December, 2021
About the author

Arlindo Santos, Deputy for Knowledge and Innovation at the Agency for Integrated Management of Rural Fires (AGIF), holds a Master's degree in Mechanical Engineering (Thermal Energy branch) and a Master's degree in Innovation and Technological Entrepreneurship, both from the University of Porto.

He has been connected to the energy sector throughout his career, starting in the area of energy management. He then carried out activities within the strategic planning of infrastructure development, network modeling and preparation of technical documentation. Since 2016 he has developed his activity in the area of innovation management, having been responsible for the implementation and management of the Research, Development and Innovation Management System at REN Portgás Distribuição and for the management of several innovation projects. Since March 2020, he has been responsible for the area of advice for Knowledge and Innovation at AGIF and is part of the team responsible for the project of the Interoperability Platform of the Integrated Management System for Rural Fires.