Operational insight: fire prevention operations in Portugal
In 2017, with an estimated 500,000 hectares of land lost to fire, Portugal suffered the worst fires in its history. Aiming to prevent such devastation in the 2018 firefighting season, Babcock, in our role as aerial firefighting service provider on behalf of the Portuguese government, worked with our customer to provide fire prevention education and forest cleaning initiatives across Portugal.
Unfortunately, much of the devastation of 2017 was caused by hot, dry and windy weather, causing fires to spread much more quickly that ever previously seen in Portugal. Knowing that weather is out of our control, 2018’s fire prevention efforts focused on removing fuel for fire so that even if this fire-friendly weather occurred again, fires would not have so many combustibles to cling to, helping to slow the spread of fire. In the end, only 42,000 hectares were affected last year and Portugal’s Secretary of State concluded this was due to a number of more favourable factors (such as cooler, wetter weather) but agreed that “first and foremost, greater attention was given to prevention.”
Following 2017’s large operational requirements, Babcock and the Portuguese government have increased the aerial firefighting fleet so that we are prepared for bigger operations in the future. We now operate a fleet of eight Bell 212 specially modified helicopters and two amphibious Canadair CL-215s.