By 2019, Air Force pilots are expected to start fighting fires

By 2019, Air Force pilots are expected to start fighting fires

 10 November 2017

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PORTUGAL / GFMC: Several ministers and secretaries of state, including the prime minister himself, dedicated this Friday to listening to international experts on fire prevention and fighting . After listening to several scholars on the subject, Tiago Martins Oliveira, president of the Mission Structure for Rural Fires , concluded that Portugal has everything so that in 2018 it will have more capacity to deal with the problem: “We have all the parts to make a good jigsaw puzzle, but we have to collaborate together, “he told a news conference to give an account of the lessons the Government has drawn from talks with technicians.

One of the pieces of this puzzle that Tiago Oliveira will compose for 14 months is how the combat device will operate throughout the year. In 2018, the special firefighting device (DECIF) will be more flexible, adapting to the “fire risk” and taking into account the weather conditions, and there will be no fixed phases in the calendar.

This is a substantial change in how fire fighting is planned. In practice, the currently defined phases stipulate the means (human, terrestrial and aerial) that are operating at all times. From next year, these means will be put on notice, pre-arranged by the national territory and contracted in a logic of flexibility, taking into account the risk of fire. For this, there will be a greater integration of knowledge, namely greater proximity to the Portuguese Institute of the Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA).

Another of the pieces that belongs to this new puzzle is the role of the Air Force. The President of the Mission Structure explained that next year the Air Force will “manage the air assets” and that, therefore, will already participate in the command, hoping that “in 2019 operate the devices.” This clarification came after news from the Defense team hearing in Parliament under the State Budget that the Air Force would not directly tackle the fires for the year.

It was already foreseen that the Air Force would start to manage the aerial means, not knowing however how many devices are, since the international competition has not yet been launched. As for the combat, the Air Force was never expected to participate in 2018, since the State has a contract with a private company to operate and maintain the state’s assets (KAMOV and light helicopters), which only ends after the next season of fireworks.

In addition to the Kamovs, Air Force pilots will be able to operate the means that only begin to arrive in 2021, the KC-390, which cost the State “hundreds of millions of euros”, as said this Friday Defense Minister Azeredo Lopes, and the new light helicopters.

Another of the changes that will happen next year is a division between fighting fire and protecting people. Tiago Martins Oliveira says that in 2018 Portugal will be better qualified for this task. “There is a need and urgency to guarantee capacity to people” and also to manage the vegetation around the populations with the collaboration of municipalities and parish councils.

On the other hand, he adds, “the fire can not walk loose on the mountain” and it is therefore necessary “to have someone focused on solving that problem and restraining it before reaching the populations.” That is, the determinations for the initial attack will remain, but the extended attack “must undergo procedural adjustments,” which will go through the distinction between rescuing populations and fighting fire.

In summary, the man who is in charge of the changes that the Government is going to carry out in Civil Protection says that Portugal is able to integrate some of the experts’ proposals, because “fighting fires obeys a set of rules and procedures that are standardized “and that Portugal is” on the road to adoption”, adapting them to the experiences of each community.

In this “exchange of experiences”, the Government heard several experts from the United States (Mark Beighley and Vicki Christiansen), Germany (Johann Goldammer) and three Spaniards (Jose Joquatot, Tomaz Fernandez and Juan Sanchez).

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