The GRAFs ask to “minimize” water consumption so that the drought does not affect the effectiveness of the Fire Department, although they assure that there will be no shortage of water to put out fires
This summer, the Generalitat Fire Department is facing one of the most complex campaigns in years. The high temperatures, the accumulated undergrowth, and the drought, which has dragged on for more than 30 months, have set off all the alarms. The lack of rain has a double effect: it increases the risk of fires and decreases the water reserves that can be used by the Fire Department.
There are already two swamps from which water cannot be taken to extinguish fires. Neither the Baells, in Berguedà, nor the Llosa del Cavall, in Solsonès, are operational. There is too little water to charge the planes used to put out forest fires. In addition, if the situation does not change, Sau could also join this list.
On the other hand, they are also concerned about the 1,600 public pools that are spread throughout the territory and that the Fire Department uses to fill trucks and helicopters. There are 200 that are out of service and the other 1,400 are “below their capacity”, as explained to ACN Jordi Castellví, sub-inspector of the GRAF of the Fire Department.
In addition, the forest hydrants that feed on these resources “are not at 100% either”, according to Castellví.
“It’s a wake-up call to society as a whole to minimize water consumption as much as possible.”
For all of this, the Fire Department has called attention to saving water. Although he says that “there is no need to be alarmists”, Castellví admits that “the drought puts more stress on the system”. He warns that the drought situation can reduce the “effectiveness” of the body.
“The water will come, but it may take longer”
The head of the body’s Air Media, Francesc Serra, does not want to add to the alarmism either. He says that the fact that two swamps are inoperable will not have consequences on the extinction tasks. Of course, the water may take longer to arrive.
“The water will always come, although in certain cases it may take longer.”
Serra acknowledges that if a fire occurs in areas of Catalonia near La Baells or Llosa del Cavall, “the water from the planes will take a little longer to arrive” because “they will have to go to other reservoirs to find it further away .”
The head of Mitjans Aeris recalls that the Fire Department also has helicopters, which can transport a thousand liters of water and which play an essential role when putting out forest fires.
“The planes have a higher capacity, of 3,000 liters, but while these media are making their rotation, the helicopters may have gone back and forth to load the tanks three times,” he explains in an interview with ACN.
Helicopters have the advantage that they can load into any tank. It just needs to be prepared and deep and wide enough to operate safely.
Read also: 277 municipalities at very high risk of fire and with restrictions: consult the list
Analyzing load points
Faced with this complicated situation, the Fire Department has advanced the inspection of the so-called “loading points”, the places where they can take water.
Francesc Serra confirms that they have already started doing the tests to evaluate them, a job that used to be done in May: “This year we have made progress”.
Among others, the controls include terrain reconnaissance tasks and water removal practices. This year, however, these last exercises will be limited, so that water will not be taken from the ponds that are in municipalities where there are restrictions due to the drought.
How will they fight fires?
The scarcity of water also changes the way of dealing with fire. The deputy head of the elite fire department, Jordi Castellví, assures that the choice is now to enhance the technical response when managing large fires. “We look for the big axes of containment instead of going around the perimeter of the fire and fighting it with water lines.”
“What is done is to wait for the fire to reach the runways to contain it.”
“It is a priority that the fire department does not collapse”, explains Castellví. The goal is to be able to attend to day-to-day life and also a forest fire. ” This involves making a good prioritization, discriminating which fires have the most potential or can affect people, and moving resources to one place or another,” he points out.
Another part of the strategy goes through the protection plans for large massifs, which seek to delimit fires: “We have to make sure that a fire in the Prades mountains does not happen in the Montsant”.
A third leg goes through farming since the agricultural fields that are located around the massifs play a key role in preventing the spread of fire.
The black points this summer
Which places suffer the most? The Fire Department points out that the areas with the greatest risk of fire are the massifs with a high forest load and, in particular, the areas in the interior of Anoia, Bages, Conca de Barberà, or Priorat.
They also pay special attention to some points on the coast and the pre-coast, which in the face of extreme winds can extend to Terres de l’Ebre and Girona.
“In short, where there is more risk is in Central Catalonia, Tarragonès, Terres de l’Ebre, and Girona.”