Finland — Airborne forest fire watches have proved to be ineffective in southern parts of the country. For example, patrol planes were the first to spot only one out of the 60 wildfires reported in the region of Päijät-Häme so far this year.
One of the reasons that so few fires are first spotted from the air is the relatively high density of population in southern areas. Smoke and fires are most often detected and reported by ground observers.
Emergency Services Inspector Markku Kirvesniemi of the South Finland Regional State Administration concedes that the benefits of fire watch flights are small when compared to the resources invested.
Airborne forest fire watches are carried out by aviation clubs that are reimbursed for costs by the state.
Warmer weather means more flights
Cool weather during the start of the summer meant that few airborne patrols were needed, only about half as many as last year. But with the hot temperatures now being seen, it is expected that the frequency will increase.
The risk of forest fires determines when patrols are in the air. When the weather is hot and very dry, for example, two patrols a day are on fire watch over Päijät-Häme. Fire watch flights require experienced small craft pilots who have a minimum of 150 hours of flight time.