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Juanma Moreno and fellow minister Antonio Sanz look at one of the surveillance drones with Infoca staff. SUR
Andalucía faces up to a high-risk wildfire season with more fire-fighting resources
Environment

Andalucía faces up to a high-risk wildfire season with more fire-fighting resources

The Junta's specialist Plan Infoca forest fire brigade will have a budget of 244 million euros this year and deploy 4,700 personnel across the region

Héctor Barbotta

Seville

Tuesday, 4 June 2024, 18:58

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The heavy rainfall over Easter improved the situation somewhat, but the outlook is far from reassuring as Andalucía faces yet another hot summer - the period of greatest risk for wildfires. The Junta's Plan Infoca new campaign (to prevent and fight any such fires) was launched on Monday and the outlook is that from now until 15 October it will be necessary to maximise vigilance to avoid situations where the ongoing drought and high temperatures could turn a fire into a catastrophe.

"Last year was good, but the perfect year is for Plan Infoca to have no work to do at all," summed up Junta president Juanma Moreno, who on Monday presented the launch of the plan at Los Cabezudos forest defence centre in Huelva province. Due to the consequences of climate change the plan has been extended to last for more than four months. The period for managing fire prevention is becoming longer and longer. "We are at risk of wildfires practically all year round," stated Moreno.

For this reason, the plan's strategy is based mainly on prevention and, if necessary, to use all means to extinguish any fire before it runs away with itself and becomes something more serious. In fact, of the 89 incidents recorded so far this year, 78 remained classed as an outbreak and only 11 reached the category of a confirmed fire. Even so, 700 hectares have already been burnt. In 95% of the cases, Moreno stated, human activity was at the origin of these fires, which calls for an emphasis on prevention.

95% of fires are sparked by human actions

The strategy of placing prevention to the fore is reflected in Plan Infoca's budget. Of the 244 million euros to be allocated this year - 20 million more than last year, an 11% increase - more than 55% is earmarked for prevention and the rest for extinguishing any fires that occur.

This year's equipment includes some new features in readiness for a tough season. One such feature is the Junta's new digital emergency network that, according to Moreno. represents a qualitative leap in communications. Other new features include a land drone, a mobile water tank with a capacity of 3,000 litres and three new modules that will equip the advanced command posts, two of them to be used as offices for up to eight staff and a third for personnel to take a break and rest. Moreno pointed out that in some of the fires that occurred in previous years, especially in the coastal areas, the fire-fighters working to extinguish them had no place to rest.

This year, the plan will also include 101 fire engines, 16 water-pump support trucks, 12 earth movers, 10 aircraft and 25 helicopters.

However, Moreno emphasised that the most important part of the set-up is the 4,700 personnel deployed. "The heart of Infoca is its professionals," he said, referring to the recent negotiations between Infoca and the regional government to improve salaries and equipment provided.

Plan Infoca will have 4,700 staff and a budget of 244 million euros this year

According to Moreno, the regional government is working on improvements in both areas. "We are making an effort in terms of material resources and also to come closer to their expectations on a personal level," said Moreno, who nevertheless acknowledged the limited resources of the Junta, which require "some clever book-keeping to make it to the end of the year."

The president stressed that it is necessary to place more value on the task faced by Infoca's foot-soldiers and acknowledged that their work is tough to the extent that they can risk their own lives. "They are always at the edge of facing up to an enemy that is impossible to anticipate and devilishly complex," he emphasised.

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