Forest fire fighters at the Jubrique blaze last summer. / infoca

Infoca fire-fighting plan starts in Andalucía with the prospect of a “quite busy” summer ahead

The rainfall during the spring dampened the ground but the vegetation has grown considerably and poses a fire risk now that it has dried out

FRANCISCO JIMÉNEZ Malaga

The heavy rainfall in March may have dampened the ground, but it also produced a lot of vegetation and that becomes a fire risk when it dries out in the summer. The temperatures are already starting to rise and this, combined with the fact that this year there have already been twice as many forest fires as last year, (30 compared with 15) has caused the Infoca fire prevention service predict a “quite busy season” ahead. The high-risk season for forest fires began on Wednesday 1 June.

This year 498 people form part of the Infoca service in Malaga province, including fire fighters, administrative workers, staff from the Environment and Water Agency, medics, pilots and mechanics.

In the province Infoca has three helicopters to move fire fighters to where they need to be and to drop water onto the fires, and two amphibious aircraft which are based at Malaga airport and deployed wherever needed. Altogether, the service has 41 aircraft in Andalucía.

On land in Malaga province there are 13 heavy-duty fire engines, 61 4x4s for transporting personnel, a mobile meteorology and transmissions unit and a mobile analysis and planning unit.

When a fire breaks out, everything is coordinated by the Provincial Operations Centre in Malaga city. The service also includes the Infoca Specialist Brigade (Brica) which is based in Cártama and is one of three Andalusian bases together with those in Granada and Seville. Their units are the first to be sent to provide reinforcements in other provinces.

There are also two forestry defence centres and 19 observation posts at the highest points. A new base for the Emergency Group of Andalucía (GREA) is currently being built in Benahavís, the contract for a new 'Cedefo' centre in Istán will be put to tender in the near future and a forestry defence sub-centre is planned for Yunquera.

Drones will be used this year

This summer, the Infoca Plan includes four drones which will serve as support for fire fighters at night, when aircraft are unable to fly. One of the drones takes off and lands vertically and flies horizontally as if it were a plane, which gives greater coverage and autonomy. There is also a land drone which can go anywhere to create firebreaks or open corridors for the fire fighters on the ground to use.

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