The Portuguese authorities have detained 128 people for the crime of forest fire this year, meaning an increase of 75% compared to 2016.

To this day,  the Portuguese “Policia Judiciaria “ and “Guarda Nacional Republicana” ,the criminal investigation police and the national guard have detained 128 arsonists , suspected of starting  rural fires, a number well above 73 arrested for the same offense in 2016.

The unusual high temperatures and strong winds recorded during the last week  of August and early September, activated the outbreak of 439 forest fires ,affecting mostly the mountainous districts of the interior of the central regions of Portugal, mobilizing more than 2,500  firemen, over two hundred  vehicles and aerial support units.

Fire prevention authorities revealed that although there had been a decrease diurnal incidents, there has been an increased the in fires which began during the night ,leading to the suspicion of being  criminally set off.

In face of a what the State spends on combating and on preventing fires ,the fatalities which this year reached a tragic record  and the massive  destruction of thousands of acres agricultural and  housing properties, there a growing public opinion that the Portuguese judiciary system is too  lenient  in the punishment towards crimes of arson .

The  Portuguese Minister of  Justice ,Francesca Van Dunen , questioned  in the Parliament and recently  interviewed by the media, in  the context of  felony  in rural fires , pointed  out that the penalties for arson offenses can go up to sentence of  ten years imprisonment.

Jay Fernandes
Master’s Degree G. Ph. from the University of Lisbon. Academic and teacher. Television , radio and press reporter / commentator