Fire Weather: After a very dry winter, rainfalls started in the spring covering the Northern and Western regions of the Iberian Peninsula. Permanent drought continued in the Southern and Eastern regions. Strong winds from the North in Catalonia (NE), from the west in Valencia (E), and from the North and the East in Andalusia (S) created many situations of Extreme Danger according the National Fire Danger Index. The months of August and September showed the highest number of days with Extreme Danger all along the Mediterranean coast. On the other hand the fire season was milder in the North and the West.
Damages: Figures for 1993 compared with those of the previous years were the following:
Number of Fires
Burned Forest Land (ha)
Burned Woodland and Grassland (ha)
Total Burned Surface (ha)
* From 1 January to 30 September 1993
70% of the fires burned less than 1 ha each. The number of fires burning more than 1 ha decreased by 34% as compared to 1992. Only 20 fires were larger than 500 ha. However, they burned 43.335 ha (49% of the total). The total burned surface decreased by 11% as compared to the previous year. The total burned surface amounted for the 0.3% of the Spanish woodland area, well under the average in the 1980s (0.9%).
The largest fire burned at Dos Aguas (Valencia) during the last week of August, with strong West winds, burning 7050 ha (1050 ha forested). During the suppression activities 3 casualties were registered: two crewmen in Alicante Province, and a volunteer at Soria Province. Furthermore five people were trapped and killed in a vacation cabin at Tarragona province.
Protection Activities: The protection plan against forest fires was developed in 1993 along the following lines:
Three prevention campaigns:
A general information campaign by TV and newspapers (daily broadcast of the fire danger map)
A rural campaign to spread information among the rural population to prevent the wrong use of fire in agricultural and grass burnings
A campaign in the schools in the framework of the IX National Contest “Everybody against the fire”
A programme of subsidies (PAPIF) from 50% to 100% of investments of encourage patrolling of forest areas, cooperation by volunteers and preventive silviculture.
Air operations with 86 aircraft (fixed and rotary wings) from 50 bases, all funded by ICONA, in cooperation with the 79 helicopters hired by the Regional governments. ICONA’s aircraft flew 7196 hours, 16% more than in 1992.
ICONA’s fleet of turbo prop CL-215’s was operated intensively, performing well near the coast and at the Northern regions. However, there were some difficulties for scooping operations in the Central regions because of the low water level in the hydroelectric and irrigation dams after the long previous droughts. A DC-6 aircraft and 10 water bomber helicopters (bambi bucket or belly tank) were hired to cover the areas where the CL-215’s were not able to scoop water.
The special plan to prevent big fires entered its second year with the following activities:
Special daily Extreme Fire Behaviour forecasts for every region
A seminar on the Incident Command System (ICS) and the NIFMAS conducted by three U.S. experts.
Implementation of four special reinforcement brigades (BRIF), according to the procedures tested in 1992 with only two brigades. These BRIF’s were transported to provide assistance to the local crews in large fire situations. Every BRIF has 45 firefighters, trained by a mixed team of American and Spanish specialists during the month of June. The transport to the fires (sometimes 300 km from the base) was carried out by four helicopters MI-8, hired by ICONA from the Russian Army. The BRIF’s were located in four bases, three in the West and one in the East, but because of the danger pattern in 1993, they had to be transported frequently to the Mediterranean regions. Their performance was really impressive.
They are becoming also a reference to improve the preparedness of the nearly 1000 initial attack crews distributed all over the country. The success of the BRIFs 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, Huelva, Caceres and Leon provinces.
The Forest Fire Data Base attained its full operation with new hardware and software installed in 1992, providing detailed information of nearly 200,000 fires in the 1968-1992 period. Global Positioning Systems (GPS) equipment was extensively used to measure burned surface in order to give a fast appraisal of fire damages. Airborne video cameras were also used to transfer images to the Operation Centres in the Madrid, Valencia and Galicia regions.
A National Standardization Committee for Forest Fires was established by ICONA and the Autonomous Regions. Its first activities were on “Fire reports”, “Operation rules and performances to hire aircraft”, and “Physical requirements to hire people for the forest fire brigades”.
The National Photo Key to Fuel Models, a work started in 1987, was completed after inventories in the last two regions covered. It is divided into 14 forest regions with 200 plates including five pictures each. This key is in use as a base for application of BEHAVE.
From: Ricardo Vélez Chief, National Forest Fire Service Address: ICONA Gran Via San Francisco, n° 4 E – 28005 Madrid