In March 2008 it was decided that the structure of public safety in Malaga should change. The province's Fire Prevention, Extinction and Rescue Service, which until then had been provided by different consortiums in Antequera, Ronda and the western area, and the service which was part of the Malaga provincial government, joined forces under one body: the Provincial Firefighting Consortium, also known as the CPB.
During the past decade there have been several controversial episodes concerning the consortium but the firefighters have never allowed these to interfere with their responsibilities, and these are considerable: they provide a service to 97 of the 103 municipalities in the province.
The consortium firefighters deal with emergencies in an area which covers 6,515 square kilometres, 90 per cent of all the territory in Malaga province, and a registered population of 630,000 (plus that of Estepona, which joined the consortium in 2016). The CPB provides this service to every municipality in the province apart from Benalmádena, Torremolinos, Fuengirola, Mijas, Marbella and Malaga city.
The CPB statutes stipulate that the objective is "to guarantee to everyone in the municipalities covered by the consortium, that if they ring for help in the case of fire or other incidents, danger to people or protection of property, the response will be immediate and effective".
The firefighting force
Over the ten year period, the firefighting structure has gradually increased. At present there are five fire stations (Antequera, Coín, Ronda, Vélez-Málaga and Estepona) as well as nine control posts (Algatocín, Alhaurín de la Torre, Archidona, Campillos, Colmenar, Manilva, Nerja, Periana and Rincón de la Victoria).
There are 260 firefighters and they operate 71 vehicles, which include two boats, six fire engines, six heavy duty vehicles, 12 rural fire engines and a mobile command unit. They are called out to thousands of incidents every year: in 2012 they were needed 3,175 times, 3,516 in 2013, and 3,129 in 2014. The figure for 2015 was similar, and then when Estepona joined the consortium in 2016 the numbers increased again.
In 2017 they went out to 3,792 incidents, and 3,762 last year. To give an idea of the situations in which they are needed, in 2018 there were 1,527 fires, 393 building collapses, and 344 search and rescue operations (the other 1,498 were problems of differing types).
Last year some changes were also made to the way of working at the CPB: an emergency plan was implemented for improvements to infrastructure and maintenance at the 14 fire stations and control posts; an action plan for the next four years (still being finalised) which includes new fire engines; and a considerable increase in staff (between 90 and 120 employees), among others. A new fire station has also opened in Nerja, and is considered by many to be a benchmark in latest generation technologies and processes.
There were no celebrations to mark the tenth anniversary in March last year, for budgetary reasons, but there are plans to organise an event to pay tribute to the work of these professionals this year.
The future of the consortium will include major changes, such as the creation of a line of activity for firefighters who are no longer able to work in risky situations.
More than 60 per cent of all emergency calls which require the services of the fire brigade are answered by the CPB, ranging from incidents in the most inaccessible areas of La Axarquía to the frequent floods in the Antequera district, which in October 2018 resulted in tragedy, when firefighter José Gil died.
The future fire station in Antequera, the town where he was born, is to be named after him.