The autonomies will have fire-fighting devices throughout the year

Firefighters work this Sunday to extinguish a forest fire in A Cañiza (Pontevedra). / EFE

A decree increases coordination between administrations, forces the brigadistas to be trained and will give more notice of high-risk waves

Alfonso Torres

All the autonomies will be obliged from this Monday to design and finance devices to prevent and fight forest fires that will last twelve months of the year and not just the two or three summer months, as is the case today in most communities. It is one of the central provisions of the royal decree law approved by the Council of Ministers, which modifies the forestry law and establishes the new basic and minimum obligations that both the national and regional plans against fire must comply with.

The reform is based on the idea that, as has been proven in recent years, and with particular force in the present, global warming caused by climate change has made droughts more frequent and intense and more common, long-lasting and torrid heat waves.

The result is mountains and groves devastated by an unknown number of superfires, which burned more than 500 hectares, and forest fires of an unusual virulence, which on many occasions overwhelm fire-fighting devices for hours or days.

This occurs in June, July and August, but also during many other months of the year. Only the times of extreme fire risk, as calculated by the technicians of the European Union, have increased due to climate change by at least 40 additional days to summer each year. In fact, the Government recalls that this is the year with the largest forest area destroyed by flames so far this century and the one with the largest number of extreme fires in the first seven months of the year.

The royal decree obliges the autonomies to have their annual fire plans approved before October 31 of each financial year and gives them five months, until the end of the year, to comply with all the new requirements for the campaign against the fire of 2023. These plans must include preventive measures, extinction and restoration of forest masses, the means and devices will be graduated according to low, medium and high risks and must cover the entire territory and not only, as now, the areas considered most vulnerable.

The state regulation, to homogenize the fight against fire throughout the country, establishes and expands the minimum content of the plans and specifies the staffing, the material means and the minimum equipment that the workers and employees of the firefighting corps must have. extinction, which must also be duly trained in all cases to improve their effectiveness and safety.

Forced cessation of activities

The rule also establishes the obligation of all the autonomies to carry out a series of appraised prohibitions of activities whenever there is an official alert from the Aemet of high or extreme risk of forest fires. This list will include any activity that is capable of generating fire risk, such as the use of agricultural machinery in mountain areas. In exchange, the State promises to accelerate and increase the number of days with which meteorologists will give the alarm and improve the zoned hazard maps.

The decree dedicates another section to improve the coordination of the regional and state means against fire. Thus, among other measures, it plans to establish a homogeneous qualification of the extinguishing units according to their operational capacities; a common coordination protocol for air assets; adopt unambiguous radio signals or use common symbology to prepare operational maps. For its part, the State assumes the commitment to keep active, throughout the year, the aerial means device, the heli-transported reinforcement units, and the remaining means of support, which will be at the disposal of the autonomous communities in the framework of the execution of plans for the prevention, surveillance and extinction of forest fires.

The standard establishes aid for the regeneration of burned land. Provided that the autonomy has taken the preventive and extinction measures provided for in this law in the area, the State will pay up to 50% of the recovery costs.

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