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Rui Pires da Rosa, head of forest region of Altri Florestal and Henk Feith, production manager of Altri Florestal

Learning from the past

There are improvements to be made in the sphere of fire-fighting. Altri Florestal is focusing on a better understanding and knowledge of fire behaviour, which means training permanent staff, hiring experts and reinforcing fire-fighting teams and the resources at their disposal.

This summer’s Major Forest Fires (GIF) altered the perception of what needs to be done in order to combat them. There is room for improvement in controlling fires. In the case of Altri Florestal, such improvements will entail reinforcing specialist and more robust resources, with more forestry teams and better management of combustible material within its properties.

Henk Feith, the production director at Altri Florestal, acknowledges some areas of improvement to be implemented at the company. One of these new requirements is to better understand and know how fires behave. At the end of November the company’s four regional managers attended a four-day Fire Behaviour Strategic Analysis training course.

Feith explains, “When you’re at the theatre of operations, you need a greater ability to interpret the  landscape and weather forecast in order to understand how the fire will behave.” Rui Pires da Rosa, Altri Florestal’s Regional Forest manager, explains that this course allows trainees to “analyse the directions of the dominant winds in the area, which may not be the same as those in the country as a whole, and have knowledge of the local vegetation and air humidity”. Tactical fire is another tool which must be used skilfully by someone who knows how and at the right time.

When you’re at the theatre of operations, you need a greater ability to interpret the landscape and weather forecast in order to understand how the fire will behave.

Henk Feith, Altri Florestal

Another development is the hiring of specialists. The first is a forest meteorologist based at the company’s headquarters, whose job it is to provide information and to report on weather conditions, humidity and wind, for each theatre of operations. The reports produced will be incorporated when setting out the fire-fighting strategy. A fire behaviour expert will also be hired who will be able to assist from the office or on the ground, by reading the fire.

The final component of this new approach is to strengthen Afocelca’s resources. The structure in place in 2017 comprised four dual brigades, working alternate 12-hour shifts. This was enough to deal with small-scale events. This all changed with the increased incidence of GIFs throughout the season, as now a large-scale fire requires at least 24 or 36 hours to be brought under control. Resources were reinforced with four brigades in 2017. In 2018 these teams will be increased to eight. The company will be providing another five fire trucks to add to its current number.

More resources in 2018

4

additional Afocelca brigades

5

new fire trucks

1

forest meteorologist

1

fire behaviour expert