“I’d never say I’m grateful for the fire,” says Antonio, “but it’s amazing to look around the village now and see how far we’ve come since then.” On June 17, 2017, Antonio Zuzarte’s rural village in Portugal, Ferraria de São João, was surrounded by burning eucalyptus plantations. The village’s narrow escape was due to Ferraria’s much-loved cork trees, which are highly resistant to fire. The eucalyptus tree was introduced from Australia in the late 18th century because it grows and burns quickly, and some of Ferraria’s larger landowners had allowed 50,000 or more to be planted around the village. But after the fire, the villagers said no more eucalyptus. Antonio and a small group of volunteers have spent the last five years planting and caring for a host of alternatives -- cork trees, oaks, chestnuts and fruit trees.

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