On June 17, a conference took place with the residents of Rocafort de Vallbona to see first hand and discuss different topics related to the Rocallaura fire in June and July 2016. For the day we have Bombers of the Generalitat, some of them who worked in the same fire and also experts in fire ecology; experts in communication and emergency management through children and adolescents (CARE project); experts in experiences of good practices in forest management in other territories, in the Empordà (project of the Carasso Foundation Production, food and environmentally multifunctional viability of grazing meat in priority areas of forest fire prevention - SILVOPASTURA prescribed) and Ebro lands were accompanied by members of the Sierra de Llaberia Consortium.
During the day diverse knowledge of the community of fires was discussed that we consider important that they reach the population.
How can neighbors help during the fire?
It is essential to try not to obstruct the access roads to the fire, and if there are farmers with a tractor, they can help by working specific areas to create vegetation discontinuities, which will make barriers making fire propagation difficult. This creates areas where firefighters can carry out and anchor extinguishing maneuvers.
It is expected that farmers who live in the area of the fire will protect their properties or those of their neighbors, and farmers with tractors arriving from other areas near the territory will go to the transit point where the Firefighters will allocate them to an area of work.
How to raise public awareness?
Although the measures to be taken before the fire are increasingly known, in general it is discussed afterwards, this is a fact, taking advantage of the post-fire as an opportunity for participation, as explained by the project CUIDAR. From the knowledge of the natural process of fires, in this case, the population together with the experts, look for proposals to contribute to help the community, and consider how to communicate them to the rest of society.
From CUIDAR they explain that to connect with disasters, they must be visualized, with the help of people who have experienced it, and visiting the stage can be a good way. Disaster not from an ecological point of view, but facing civil protection issues, in order to reinforce self-protection and the resilience of society. Since the project CUIDAR they have verified that there is an interest in working the emotional fear of being alone during the fire. It is key to work on emotional management, to do it through hypotheses and to give guidelines of what to do during the fire, because right now there is the possibility of losing common sense. Initially, society may seem passive, but if they feel more protagonists they want to collaborate.
Is it recommended to cut down trees after the fire?
In a burned area, it is recommended not to cut burned trees, as they provide shade and protection that encourages the natural regeneration of new trees. The burned trunks standing still function as a reservoir of fauna, increasing the biodiversity of the area. In addition, live trees, but also standing dead trees, act as carbon fixers, thus preventing carbon from disappearing from the ecosystem and being fixed.
A forest like the one that burned is like a nursing home, a forest is aging where it is difficult to fix problems, while the regenerated one that comes out after the fire, is like a kindergarten, where there is a lot of future ahead while improving the landscape with a forest with more wealth and biodiversity. Through forest management it is possible to start creating a forest resistant to the passage of forest fires. We must give value to these young forests, and not only to adult or old forests.
In this case, the fire acts as a natural disturbance for the renewal of the forest mass, giving the opportunity to improve it. After a fire the ashes are a source of nutrients for the soil, and the charcoal that remains in the soil is carbon per se, it is stored in a more stable way in the ecosystem (being the most recalcitrant form).
What silvicultural practices can be done to adapt the forest to the passage of fire while activating the economy?
Peasants in the past were clear about which trees they cut to make firewood, the thinnest, because to cut a large tree with an ax it takes a lot of effort, therefore, unless they needed a large trunk, they used to do what in forestry is called cleared low, where there are no forest decapitalization problems.
This previous idea linked to the use of biomass as a tool for forest management, is not non-contradictory, but is in tune. The forest should not be decapitalized by cutting the largest trees, but as they did in the past, the thinnest should be removed in order to maintain a forest more resistant to fire. These practices at the local level help to add value and stimulate the local economy.
Another way to activate the local economy is to re-introduce herds into the forest, this was a common practice that has been abandoned. A good example is in Empordà, where we work with the project of productive, food and environmentally multifunctional viability of grazing meat in priority areas of forest fire prevention - SILVOPASTURA prescribed to give value to lamb meat from herds that They have grazed at strategic management points (PEG) designed by the firefighting bodies and the planners of the territory to decrease the potential of the fire, reducing the risk and number of Ha burns. By reducing the fuel load in these areas, the intensity of the fire decreases, and firefighters can work more efficiently. This Carasso Foundation project works with all the agents involved in the territory in the area of fire prevention and extinction, as well as with shepherds and the butchers' guild to create a distinction for this meat that “puts out fires”.
In tourist areas it is more feasible to revalue the value of meat, but in areas such as Rocallaura it becomes more difficult. It would be more effective for the European Union through a directive to apply fiscal measures such as the reduction or elimination of VAT on these products, so the benefit would be more direct.