The year 1992 has been extremely dry, without snow in the mountains and few showers in springtime. Only in June heavy rainfall was registered all around the Peninsula, reducing the risk during the first weeks of the summer. The highest danger was recorded in Valencia, because of several windstorms from the west at the end of July and August and at the beginning of December. The Southwest of the Peninsula showed also extreme danger because of the long drought.
Figures for 1992 compared with the previous years were the following:
Number of fires
Woodland and grassland (ha)
Total burned surface (ha)
89% of the fires burned less than 5 ha each. The burned surface amounted for the 0,3% of the Spanish forest area, well under the average for the 1980’s (0.9%).
During the suppression activities 14 casualties were registered, four in accidents related to helicopter operations in Valencia and Almeria and ten in two groups of five people surrounded by the fire in the Cadiz and Madrid forest areas.
The protection plan against forest fires was developed in 1992 along the following lines:
Prevention by three campaigns:
a general campaign by TV and newspapers, showing every day the danger map
a rural campaign to spread information among the country people concerning agricultural and grass burnings
a campaign in the schools by the III National Contest “Everybody against the fire”.
A programme of subsidies (PAPIF) between 50% and 100% of the investments to encourage patrolling of forest areas, cooperation by voluntary people and preventive silviculture.
Air operations with 81 aircraft (fixed wing and helicopters) from 50 bases, all funded by ICONA, in cooperation with the 79 aircraft hired by the Regional governments. The ICONA’s aircraft flew 6,192 hours, well below the 11,889 hours in 1991.
A special plan was designed to prevent large fires by:
special daily forecasts of the National Weather Institute on situations of extreme fire danger;
a Seminar on Control of Big Fires with the participation of well known experts from North America, Mr. R. Rothermel, Mr. A. Simard and Mr. J. Moneysmith, along with the Spanish specialists;
implementation of two special brigades (BRIF), similar to the American “hot shots”, with 45 firefighters each. For their training a team of specialists from the U.S. Forest Service arrived during the month of June. The transport to the fires was carried out by two helicopters Mi 8, hired by the Russian Army, including their own crews.
The performance of these brigades (BRIF’s) was really bright in the two regions where they were located (Western Andalucia and Valencia). Conclusions of this experience will be transferred in 1993 for the organization of the standard brigades. It was amazing to realize how such useful cooperation was possible for a peaceful purpose having together Americans, Russians and Spaniards. Although cooperation between American and Spanish foresters has a long tradition, Russian military people have not flown over Spain since the end of the Civil War in 1939. The Russians performed very well because they came from the military SAR (Search and Rescue). The helicopter Mi 8 was previously known in Spain because several units were hired by ICONA from Poland for the standard brigades in 1990. The success of the BRIF’s was mainly based on the special training they received and on the enthusiastic attitude of the people enrolled, all of them forest workers from the Cuenca and Huelva provinces.
The forest fire data bank was updated with new hardware under UNIX, with a new Data Base on INFORMIX for the period 1968-1991 including information on more than 150,000 fires. GPS equipment were extensively used to measure burned surfaces in order to give a fast appraisal of fire damages. Heliborne videocameras were also used to transfer images to the Operation Centres in the Valencia Region.
A special cooperation by the Guardia Civil (Rural Police) is being implemented to increase the efficacy in the identification of persons causing fires.
From: Ricardo Vélez Chief, National Forest Fire Service Address: ICONA Gran Via San Francisco, n° 4 E-28005 Madrid