Spain: CIHEAM: International Course on Protection against Forest Fires 4-15 May 1998 (IFFN No. 19 – September 1998)

International Course on Protection Against Forest Fires

Zaragoza, Spain, 4-15 May 1998

(IFFN No. 19 – September 1998,p. 75-78)

Objective of the course

Forest fires constitute a chronic problem within the area of the Mediterranean basin, whose environmental consequences have compelled the governments of the Mediterranean coastal countries to make tremendous efforts to prevent and extinguish fires.

The frequency with which these fires occur and the experience we have gained regarding the effects of new fire-fighting techniques and methods, necessitate the organization and systematic analysis of all the available information as an essential element in the planning of protection and fire-control systems. Periodical meetings must also be held between professionals of forestry services with the purpose of exchanging information and technologies with their neighbour countries in the Mediterranean basin.

The CIHEAM, in collaboration with other institutions (FAO and the General Directorate for Nature Conservation in Spain) has been paying special attention to this issue since 1990 and has organized courses and seminars designed for experts with responsibilities at national as well as regional levels. Through these activities, the latest techniques for the appropriate control of forest fires are diffused, and the creation and development of data bases are also encouraged since they are fundamental tools for designing efficient prevention and extinction policies.

In this course the most up-dated techniques for forest fire extinction and fire behaviour prediction have been presented, and discussions held on the planning of fire defence methods using data bases. During the course, three data bases have been seen: the EU decentralized data bank, the data base developed by the CIHEAM/Mediterranean Agronomic Institute Chania (MAICh) for the Mediterranean region and the national data base that has been used in Spain since 1968.


The course is jointly organized by the CIHEAM, through the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Zaragoza, by FAO, through the Silva Mediterranea Committee and by the Ministry of Environment (MIMAM), through the General Directorate for Nature Conservation and has taken place at the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Zaragoza. The course has been given by well qualified lecturers from research centres, universities, government departments and private companies from different countries. Mr. Ricardo Vélez was the Scientific Director of the Course. Ms. Maite Aguinaco coordinated the organization.


25 Candidates from some CIHEAM member countries (Albania, Algeria, Morocco, Spain Tunisia and Turkey) and also from Argentina and Venezuela followed the Course.


1. Forest fires in the Mediterranean Basin: Causes and effects

2. Fire behaviour
2.1. Meteorological and topographic factors
2.2. Forest fuel: characteristics and models
2.3. Programmes for the prediction of fire behaviour (BEHAVE, CARDIN)
2.4. Preventive silviculture

3. Extinction operations
3.1. Extinction methods
3.2. Personnel: Selection and safety
3.3. Vehicles for combating forest fires and hose laying
3.4. Heavy machinery
3.5. Air support facilities

4. Data bases on forest fires
4.1. Data bases: EGIF, PYROSTAT and EU data bases
4.2. Use of GPS
4.3. Loss assessment

5. Coordination methods

Some practical activities were performed:

  1. Practice with simulators: CARDIN and FARSITE

  2. Field visit to Moncayo burned areas: Discussion on fire fighting methods, fire effects and restoration works

  3. Visit to Zaragoza air base: CL-215 T; BK-117; Mobile Unit for Communications and Meteorology, including reception of video images by microwaves; use of GPS for burned surface appraisal

  4. Visit to Torreferrusa Center for Prevention: Use of GIS for planification; network of automatic weather stations to forecast fire danger; portative GPS equipment for patrolling.

Future activities

During the Course the training demands in the Mediterranean countries were analyzed in order to establish a follow up of the cooperation between the CIHEAM, the Spanish Administration and the Committee FAO/Silva Mediterranea. The following activities were listed:

a) Courses on fire suppression

With a similar content to the Zaragoza 1998 Course and during two weeks these courses are to he programmed for the fire season in order to include practical activities in the DGCN helibases. The month of September is probably the best time for these courses.

b) Courses on specific subjects:

One week courses can be organised on the following subjects:

  • Fuel management
  • Development of sensibilization Campaigns
  • Techniques for investigation of fire causes

c) Individual stages for personnel with specific responsibilities

Two to four weeks stages can be considered:

  • Uses of GIS for planification and simulation
  • Organization and uses of Data Bases
  • Management of helicrews (BRIF, CAR)

The Courses are to be organised in Zaragoza because of the facilities in the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute (classes, equipment, simultaneous translation English/French/Spanish, lodgings).

The individual stages can be supported by the Spanish Administration in its own facilities, although candidates need to know the Spanish language.

From: Ricardo Vélez
Coordinator of the FAO/Silva Mediterranea Network on Forest Fires
General Direction of Nature Conservation,
Ministry of Environment
Gran Vía de San Francisco 4
E – 28005 Madrid, Spain

Fax: ++34-91-365-8379

IFFN No. 19
Country Notes

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