Helicopter use surges in Spain

The use of aerial fire-fighting resources in Spain is climbing steeply, with Galicia in the northwest of the country reporting a 30-per-cent increase in the use of fire-fighting helicopters in the first four months of this year compared to 2011.

The use of aerial fire-fighting resources in Spain is climbing steeply, with Galicia in the northwest of the country reporting a 30-per-cent increase in the use of fire-fighting helicopters in the first four months of this year compared to 2011. In the first quarter of 2012, 42,671 hectares were burned in forest fires in the region – 6,000 of these in Galicia. The increasing number of fires has inevitably led to a surge in the use of aerial resources – aircraft are flying more hours in each sortie, and are flying more regularly as well. As part of the country’s efforts to stop fires getting out of control during the dry and dusty summer months, the government has allocated €90 million to forest fire prevention methods.

AECA Helicópteros, operator of many of Spain’s fire-fighting helicopters, recently said how vital it was that the importance of helicopters used for fire fighting was recognised. The company employs over 1,500 people as part of its fire-fighting campaigns each summer, and has invested over €50 million in the acquisition and maintenance of its aircraft fleet and professional training. AECA Helicópteros has also called for greater involvement from the various autonomous communities in Spain to support and devote more manpower to fire fighting.

Meanwhile, in Madrid’s autonomous region, the regional government has approved a €7.2-million investment to purchase at lease seven helicopters that will aid fire fighters in their mission this summer. Furthermore, help will come from another helicopter called ‘Trueno Azul’ (Blue Thunder), which will be equipped with a infrared sensors that will transmit images back to the firefighters’ base in real time, enabling them to more quickly locate fires in the early stages. The other helicopters will perform rescue and co-ordination missions, as well as carrying buckets to deliver water to the site of a fire.

Image credit: USDA