August 4, 2006

Portugal raises fire alert as temperatures rise

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal raised its national fire alert
to the second highest level on Friday, as rising temperatures
and falling humidity threatened to mar a summer fire season
that has so far been mild.

The authorities said they expect temperatures to rise in
the coming days while humidity drops to below 20 percent.

"Because of this, between August 4 and 7, we have raised
the fire alert level to orange," the National Fire and Forest
Institute said on its Web site, referring to the second-highest
of four levels. The alert was previously at the third level.

Up to now, Portuguese fires have been smaller in number and
less intense than recent years -- 2003 saw the worst on record,
and last year was the second worst.

The amount of woodland destroyed by fires in the first six
months of this year fell 84 percent compared to the same period
of 2005 to 13,971 hectares (34,520 acres), the lowest level in
12 years.

In the past week firemen fought three different fires in
the center and north of the south European country.