By: ELOISE WALTON
PORTUGAL’S INTERNAL Administration Minister has said that more than 9,600 fire fighting personnel, 2,300 vehicles and 56 aircraft will be on standby to fight fires in Portugal this summer.
Speaking at a presentation in Lagos on Sunday, one of 18 to take place across Portugal to announce the government’s fire fighting resources, Rui Pereira, and the Secretary of State for Civil Protection, José Miguel Medeiros, announced regional as well as national plans for this summer.
Three aircraft will again be prepared to fight fires in the Algarve during the high risk season, between July 1 and September 30.
According to the district operations commander, Vaz Pinto, the region’s population swells to more than one million inhabitants during the highest risk phase of the year, with the most vulnerable areas in the Algarve being Serra de Monchique and Serra do Caldeirão.
A protocol to give fire fighters better training and qualifications in the region was also signed during the presentation, between the Civil Government and the new opportunities centre of the Júlio Dantas secondary school.
The entire year has been split into five phases – Alfa between January 1 and May 14, Bravo from May 15 until June 30, Charlie from July 1 until September 30, Delta,from October 1 until October 15 and finally Echo which will remain until December 31.
An extension has been made for the high risk season this year until October 15, “with 15 more days of special vigilance, because of data we collected last year,” said Rui Pereira.
Of the 56 available fire fighting aircraft, 35 are helicopters, 14 are airplanes, two are multipurpose amphibious aircraft and five are new fire fighting helicopters.
Nine of these aircraft belong to the new state owned aircraft company EMA, “created to guarantee the strategic autonomy of the Ministry of Internal Administration for civil protection and public order missions,” said Rui Pereira.
As well as air support, vehicles and fire fighting personnel, resources across the country will also include the support of the Grupo de Intervenção de Protecção e Socorro (GIPS), a specialist branch of the GNR composed of 720 personnel, who are trained in intervention, protection and emergency situations.
There will also be a special fire brigade force called the Canarinhos, which will be distributed across seven high risk districts. Permanent intervention teams will also be set up in cooperation with the national Civil Protection Authority, local Câmaras and fire brigades.
“This year we are going to have more resources available than in any other previous year,” said Rui Perreíra.
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