The region of Pedrogao Grande, 160km north of Lisbon, is burning, with at least 62 victis. Flames, driven by a strong dry wind, expand along the eucalyptus and pine plantations without finding obstacles, indeed fuelled by the dry soil and the abundance of died wood.
Portugal’s prime minister, António Costa, described the blazes as “the greatest tragedy we have seen in recent years in terms of forest fires," and warned the death toll could rise. Three days of national mourning were declared. The judicial police have ensured that the fires have no criminal origin, and the initial spark is probably caused by a lightning strike. The exceptionally hot drought and climate are not attributable to man's hand, but years of clearing of  natural forests to develop large scale industrial plantations created the ground for a man-made tragedy. Plantations stretch across entire landscapes, with fast-growing trees suck away groundwater exacerbating drought and leaving dry residues on the ground, fuel ready to spark the fires.

A few years ago The Monthly published an article titled: The Eucalypt Invasion of Portugal. In fact, it is years that the Portuguese environmentalist group Quercus warns against the indiscriminate expansion of the eucalyptus and Pinus radiata plantations promoted by the paper industry, precisely those plantations that have massively fueled the recent fires.
Paulo Fernandes, university professor at the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, associates the rapid expansion of fires at extensive eucalyptus plantations: "The eucalyptus bark is very flammable and aerodynamic, and with strong winds it can be transported to over a mile and a half, and according some studies, up to three kilometers. 

"It is not enough to mourn the dead and mourn atypical climatic conditions," and "we need to convince ourselves that we have created a killer forest" commented Portuguese constitutionalist Vital Moreira.
Last winter, a similar a wave of fires devastated an entire region of pine plantations in Chile, two years ago Indonesia's acacia plantations fuelled extensive fires, covering entire nations with haze. The climate is changing, and the dry seasons will become more and more an usual occurrence. Why continue to provide fuel for these massive disasters, by keeping to  expand large scale industrial plantations?
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