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Following a particularly mild spring, and fearing for a long and hot summer, the government has already taken pre-emptive steps to reduce the risk of forest fires, by banning agricultural burning earlier than normal and trying to raise awareness of the part we can each play in reducing the risk, but behind the scenes lies a team of dedicated professionals waiting to respond to incidents which are often caused by our neglect and sometimes even stupidity.

Over recent weeks the whole of Spain has seen numerous fires take hold on the dry land, even the Orihuela Costa has witnessed the fire fighting activities, and with land, livestock and livelihoods at risk, let alone people´s homes and belongings, and ultimately their lives, there has never been a more apt time to be cautious of our surroundings.

General advice in preventing outbreaks of fire revolves around us taking our rubbish away with us. Many a fire has been started by a discarded cigarette or match, sometimes thrown from a vehicle which is long gone by the time the fire takes hold.

General rubbish and litter can also be a risk, not just glass that can amplify the sun´s rays, but paper and plastic can also become extremely inflammable. Intentional fires can easily rage out of control, so campfires are often also banned, and the storage of flammable liquid should be strictly monitored.

However, should you see a fire, the first thing to do is to summon support, which can be done via the 112 emergency call centre, where multilingual operators will be available upon request, so you don´t have to worry about speaking English. One thing to try to obtain first is the best location of the fire. This can be street names, GPS locations, highway markers, grid coordinates, and even from your mobile phone, bearing in mind that the operators are often based in a call centre far away from where you might be, so a description like “down the road passing the big tree and recycle bins” will probably not be enough in the first instance.

Once summoned, the emergency centre will dispatch fire fighters to deal with the situation, and ultimately may well have to call for support from many of the ground and air troops that are trained and ready to deal with these situations.

Looking after the province of Alicante, the air support comes from the airfield at Mutxamel, where fire fighter pilot trainer Carlos Bea is already warning of a “hellish summer”. For that reason, the contracted company INAER have already taken steps to train more pilots in the high risk activity, with the trained quota of pilots now reaching 101, more than ever before, after qualifying following their theoretical and practical training course this month.

With a variety of different sized aircraft at their disposal, the crew can fly to anywhere in Spain and deal with whatever incident they find, first by locating an adequate and accessible water supply, then flying into the “hell” zone to deliver their cargo and hope to fight back the spread.

For this summer, INAER will have a total of 76 aircraft, with a team of more than 300 professionals, including pilots and aircraft maintenance technicians, highly qualified for this type of operation in order to prevent and extinguish fires and near misses that occur in the regions where they operate.

The company runs a fleet of 71 helicopters, 10 of which are Kamov Ka-32 with a discharge capacity of water over 4,500 litres, plus another 17 Bell 412 helicopters, which are highly versatile and lightweight aircraft, along with their Airbus AS350 B3 Helicopters.

In order to try to prevent outbreaks, the company also operate a fleet of 4 surveillance helicopters, 2 of which are Airbus AS355-N, plus an Agusta A109, and an Airbus AS350 B3, equipped with technology for the coordination and transmission of images to coordination centres and ground crews.

In addition to the helicopters, INAER also operate a fleet of fixed wing aircraft, including two amphibious Air Tractor 802A with a water capacity of more than 3,100 litres, and 2 Partenavia P68, specially equipped for observation and the transmission of images of fires.

With a number of crashes in recent years only serving to highlight the risk these men and women put themselves under in the course of their duties, the two things we can all do is firstly to hope we never need their help, and secondly to ensure that we do our bit by taking all of our rubbish away, however big or small, and paying attention to the risks of discarding smoking paraphernalia.

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/43858/

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