Helicopter pilots to get more time to fight the forest fires

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DESTROYED: Firefighters to get longer support from the air. Photo Credit: RTN

IN readiness for the next forest fire season, the Spanish government have issued a change to how they are fought… but it’s not been welcomed in all quarters.

The change means that the aerial firefighters can now smother the wildfires more effectively by being legally allowed to work up to three consecutive hours as opposed to the current two.  The change announced in the Official State Bulletin (BOE) comes in the wake of 2017 being one of the worst years for forest fires – many of which affected the Costa Blanca – since 2010.

However, according to the Official College of Pilots (COPAC), the amendment does not go far enough. “This is a partial and transitional measure,” says a spokesman for COPAC. “We believe a complete revision of the legislation is necessary. The current legislation is ambiguous, out of date and has little to do with the reality of aerial firefighting operations, either with regard to safety or putting out the fire.”

According to provisional data from the Ministry of Agriculture, there were almost 800 forest fires in Spain last year and during the summer alone, fire destroyed almost 105,000 hectares of forest and fires in Doñana, Valencia, Galicia and Asturias.

For the past four years, COPAC has been complaining about the two-hour rule, which applied to air tankers refilling from airfields, but not to those refilling from sources nearby.

“Statistically, most forest fires last for three hours and the first hours of tackling them are the most effective,” says the spokesman. “There have been cases in which the fire has had to be abandoned to comply with the legislation and has then taken longer to put out when work has resumed.”

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