The antennas are to serve as “reinforcement of redundancy mechanisms” – that is, as backup for communication in priority areas as defined by the National Civil Protection Authority (ANPC), the minister, Eduardo Cabrita, said at a hearing of parliament’s constitutional affairs committee.

SIRESP officials, the minister said, is already putting feelers out into the market so that the antennas can be in place by May – several months before the peak period for forest fires.

The minister showed the map depicting areas deemed to be critical to deputies: most are in the north and centre of Portugal, or in the Algarve. In all, they take in 189 municipalities and 1,049 parishes.

Last year forest fires claimed 115 lives, with the worst incidents in mid-June and mid-October.

For this year, the government expects to lease 50 planes and helicopters to help fight fires, to be ready in February. One is to be based in Madeira, which suffered badly from fires last year.