Prevention around urban areas is key factor to protect against wildfires

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Politicians, managers and practitioners meet in  Girona to share prevention measures in order to face the current challenges of wildfires

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The most outstanding messages of the Conference

«We have a very beautiful territory, but very vulnerable to fires»; Jordi Martín, Head of the Girona Emergency Region
«The fire of Portugal, in 2016, cost 193 million. € I wonder: Why couldn’t we have spent that money on prevention ?;Ferran Dalmau, Forestry Engineer at Medio XXI consulting
«The abandonment of forests and climate change are leading us towards fires that are putting people at risk»; Anna Sanitjas, Forestry Engineer of the Diputación de Girona
«Just as the streets are paved without anyone considering not doing so, the protective strips should also be prepared»;Santiago Fernández, Professor of Geography of the Carlos III University and former Councilor of the City of Torrelodones, Madrid
«You have to bet on the maintenance of vineyards and olive trees as firewalls»;Representatives of the municipalities of Capmany and Espolla
«Although it seems that we are protected in our brick house, it has been shown that they can be burned»;Lucian Deaton, director of the FIREWISE project of the US NFPA

Local actions to face wildfires

Politicians in the province of Girona agreed that the challenge and at the same time the most important work that councilors and technicians are dealing with is to raise the population´s awareness. Specifically, the forestry and technical engineer of the Diputació de Girona, Maria Pipió, pointed out that the communication of fire risk is a key factor.

Likewise, the meeting had the testimony of Santiago Fernández, former councilor of the City Council of Torrelodones and Professor of Geography at the Universidad Carlos III, who for many years has been working in offering the necessary tools to the residents of the municipality of Torrelodones to protect themselves to face forest fires. Tools such as the defensible space of the house. A space where the fuel around the house is completely cleaned, and is also wide enough so that the fire is less likely to enter the house.

According to Fernández’s opinion, the population has to equate the importance of preparing protective defensible spaces around the house with the seriousness that is taken when paving the streets. No one considers not doing so.

It should be noted that the politicians who attended this Technical Workshop bet on  the maintenance of vineyards and olive trees as firewalls, and encourage neighbors to apply these protection measures. In particular, the representatives of the municipalities of Capmany and Espolla have begun to charge a fee to the residents of these two municipalities in order to create defensible space perimeter protection.

The reality, as Anna Sanitjas, forestry and technical engineer of the Diputación de Girona reminded us, that the abandonment of forests and climate change are leading us towards fires that put people at risk; and she reminded us again that extinction is the answer, but it is not the solution.

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Innovate in preparation to deal with fires

As we have already mentioned, the province of Girona is currently an example for other municipalities, since it is taking measures in view of their high risk of wildfires. One of these actions, which could be a model for other provinces with the same risk conditions is Preparedness Day. An activity that seeks to interact and inform the neighbors personally about the protection measures they should take because their homes are located in an area with a high risk of wildfires.

During the Technical Workshop, the success of the door-to-door with the residents during Preparedness Day was highlighted, as well as the good cooperation and coordination between the entities and organizations that participated in this initiative.

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Preparedness Day is an action that the USA has been carrying out for more than three decades with the NFPA Firewise program. That is the reason we invited Lucian Deaton, director of the NFPA program in order to have first-hand information to adapt his model to our territory.

Firewise, NFPA´s project has the aim to raise awareness among neighbors and this will be applied in our territory adapting to the conditions and the culture of the communities of neighbors who live mainly in rural areas.

The neighbors are part of the solution

Núria Prat, PHD and director of R&D+i projects of PCF, defended that a more efficient territorial management model is needed to prepare for the fires that will come. She also stressed out the importance of making the neighbors understand that they are part of the solution. This was argued by exposing the conclusions that were drawn in the actions that were taken on Preparedness Day; «With the actions of the Preparedness Day we get people to know better the risk situation of their homes,» Prat explained to the attendees.
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The records of the previous year are broken annually

“Why has that money not been spent on prevention?», Ferran Dalmau, Forestry Engineer at Medio XXI consultancy, launched this question to the audience regarding the fire in Portugal, in 2017, where they spent more 193 million euros in extinction. The Forest Engineer indicated that records are being broken annually. He also warned that housing developments that are currently at moderate risk will have a high risk. He concluded that «a society that is not prepared to deal with fires is a vulnerable society»

 

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Practitioners and wildfires

Jordi Martín, Head of the Girona Emergency Region emphasized the importance of working together, and also stressed  that in case of fire,to avoid  the front of flames  with fuel since it would spread much faster towards the houses. Martín stressed that it is very important that the defensible space or buffer zone are made completely and in keeping them managed throughout the year.

On the other hand, the Senior Agent of the Rural Agents Corps, Sergi Fontseca, explained when the fire reaches the defensible space, the fire considerably lowers the speed of propagation and the length of its flame. Fontseca gave these data thanks to the study that the ADF has carried out in relation to the effectiveness of the defensible zone.

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This Technical Conference was organized jointly with the Diputació de Girona, CILMA and Pau Costa Foundation. We emphasize that the PCF is committed to working with the municipalities to offer the necessary tools so that the residents of the municipalities know how to protect themselves against forest fires.

If you are interested and you would like more information, please write to info@paucostafoundation.org

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Autor: Pau Costa Foundation

La Fundación de Ecología del Fuego y Gestión de Incendios Pau Costa Alcubierre (PCF) tiene la ambición de ser una plataforma de información en gestión de los incendios forestales, a la vez que un instrumento de difusión e investigación en la ecología del fuego.

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