Photo: Ejército del Aire
Updated 19 May: The Canarian Government has announced its forest fire fighting and prevention measures for this summer. The announcement was made in a presentation yesterday by Canarian President Fernando Clavijo with the Government’s Política Territorial, Sostenibilidad y Seguridad minister, Nieves Lady Barreto. Specialist helicopter units (Equipos de Intervención y Refuerzo Forestales – EIRIF) will cover all the islands, being physically based in La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro, the result of an investment of almost €3m over two years, explained the president.
The minister, for her part, emphasized that the creation of EIRIF represented fundamental progress in fire fighting and prevention in the Canaries, with the units’ capacity to intervene on any island when required being an important preventative measure which, although it couldn’t stop fires starting, allowed an improved response to extinction and early assistance to stop fires spreading. Each squad will comprise 24 personnel including a technician, a foreman, and 6 specialists, and so together with 3 coordination technicians and 3 physical trainers, there will be 78 additional operatives integrated into the islands’ existing intervention resources.
The units will act as reinforcement for the existing Cabildo cover which each island has in its own right, and will be employed between June and October, the high season for forest fire risk, whenever a fire exceeds insular level and requires a coordinated regional response from the Canarian Government. This will be of particular importance should fires break out on more than one island simultaneously. There will also be a hidroavion from Madrid based in the islands, and the training exercises for that were taking place recently between Gran Canaria and Tenerife.
Updated 9 May: The Air Force has announced that hidroavion training is taking place in the Canaries today and tomorrow in preparation for whatever fights the water planes will have to face in summer. They will take the opportunity to familiarize themselves once again with the characteristics of the terrain here should any intervention be necessary. Although based in Gran Canaria for the training, it’s possible that we’ll get a glimpse of them here – their water loading manoevres are something to behold!
The planes’ presence is part of the service that Madrid promised would be provided to these islands every summer. Last year it was not required at all. Let’s hope that it won’t be required this year either, and that its lack of action doesn’t call its presence into question for next year, because each year that passes without a major fire adds more fuel to the fire when it does come.
Original post 12 March: Last year’s post on forest fires in Tenerife was the shortest ever. It was a complete mercy only to have to post in July about fewer than a handful of fires. This year, however, has started early, with the unseasonal heatwave bringing hot winds to Tenerife, and an outbreak in the hills above La Orotava last evening caused quite a scare for the authorities.
The Cabildo says that the fire broke out around 8pm near Aguamansa, in an abandoned orchard in Cueva El Negro, and that it was whipped up by the high winds. There were no dwellings in the area, however, so no-one was at physical risk, and the fire was brought under control by bomberos and the forestry brigade, BRIFOR, coordinated by La Orotava Ayuntamiento, within an hour or so, haing affected half an acre. BRIFOR continued working at the site damping the ground down fully to prevent the fire restarting, and it was declared extinguished around 11pm.