Drones to fight fires

Costa Levante News - - NEWS -

By Dave Jones and Jo Pugh TWO DRONES have been pur­chased by the re­gional gov­ern­ment to help in the fight against for­est fires.

The re­mote-con­trol fly­ing ma­chines have been fit­ted with ther­mal imag­ing cam­eras to al­low them to iden­tify the perime­ters of blazes and de­tect the hottest points of fires.

They also al­low fire­fight­ing teams to ‘ plan the work that needs to be done at night and work out strate­gies in the early hours of the morn­ing’.

The news comes as the Va­len­cia re­gion has been placed on alert for for­est fires fol­low­ing the in­land heat­wave (see story on page 10).

Re­gional pres­i­dent Ximo Puig said the in­vest­ment meant the emer­gency ser­vices have the lat­est tech­no­log­i­cal equip­ment avail­able.

He said Va­len­cia had been the first re­gion in Spain to change its laws to al­low drones to be used for these kinds of tasks.

“It is vi­tally im­por­tant that we use tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion in the fight against for­est fires,” he stated.

Sr Puig stressed that the most im­por­tant task is pre­ven­tion and the drones will be used to help draw up maps of ar­eas at risk.

He also noted that early de­tec­tion of fires is crit­i­cal.

“We have to place the em- pha­sis on de­tect­ing fires im­me­di­ately and get­ting to them as quickly as pos­si­ble,” he added.

At the same time, en­vi­ron­ment coun­cil­lor Elena Ce­brián said her depart­ment was ‘re­cov­er­ing the forests’ own de­fence mech­a­nisms’.

“The struc­ture of the forests should pre­vent or break the spread of fire,” she said. Fol­low­ing a fire that af­fected 6,000 me­tres of land near Benissa on Satur­day, the mayor, Abel Car­dona, has ques­tioned why the fire sta­tion has not opened, de­spite prom­ises from the re­gional gov­ern­ment.

The fire, in an agri­cul­tural area, was caused by a power surge in an elec­tric­ity pylon, which melted the wires and these then dropped to the ground, ig­nit­ing the dry brush be­neath.

The fire was quickly con­trolled due to aircraft be­ing scram­bled im­me­di­ately, and ground crews from the Civil Pro­tec­tion, who had to wait for fire en­gines from Calpe and Teu­lada to at­tend.

In a state­ment, Car­dona said: “This year we started sum­mer with an ex­treme risk of for­est fires due to high tem­per­a­tures and the ex­is­tence of large amounts of green­ery af­ter the rains of last win­ter. It is ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary, there­fore, that we step up fire pre­cau­tions.

"For this rea­son, and oth­ers, I don't un­der­stand how Benissa fire sta­tion re­mains closed and with­out any per­son­nel. In Novem­ber of last year, the pro­vin­cial chief of emer­gen­cies, Jaime Lloret, an­nounced that this year it would be fully op­er­a­tional.

"In early June, we saw in the press that it would be open by the end of the month. It is now nearly July, and we still have heard noth­ing.

"I have been trying to meet with Lloret to dis­cuss this and other topics of im­por­tance for our towns­folk, but it was not pos­si­ble to ar­range a meet­ing in Ali­cante. Af­ter that re­quest was un­suc­cess­ful, I tried to ar­range a 10minute tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion with him, but again the an­swer was no.

"The re­al­ity that we see in the area is the se­ri­ous prob­lem of our age­ing fire­men, with more than 40% be­ing above the age of 50 years.

"In ad­di­tion, the plan to com­plete the fire sta­tion does not seem to be a re­al­is­tic project un­til af­ter sum­mer. It seems he wants to pro­vide Dé­nia and Benidorm with more staff first.”

A fire near Lliber last week was also caused by ex­actly the same prob­lem, and Car­dona is ex­tremely con­cerned be­cause of the wild­fire risk at this time of year.

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