Drones to fight fires
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.