MONTEVIDEO – Uruguay’s National Firefighters director, Leandro Palomeque, said on Wednesday in Montevideo that the country is facing “one of the worst summers” in a decade during the 2016-2017 austral summer in terms of the risk of forest fires and wildfires.
“We’re facing different variables from the meteorological point of view in the predictions, and from the standpoint of conditions on the ground, with the adverse events that have hit us in recent months leading ... to an increase in combustible materials,” Palomeque said.
In addition, he said that “the predicted increase in ... tourism in the eastern part of the country and (the fact that) 98 percent of the fires result from human factors makes it clear to us the conditions we’ve got.”
According to figures from the Uruguayan Weather Institute (Inumet), the weather outlook for December, January and February is for below normal rainfall and an average temperature slightly above the nationwide average.
The campaign to prevent forest fires, presented on Wednesday at the National Firefighters Directorate (DNB), in coordination with the National Emergency System (SINAE), set forth the main things to do to prevent, mitigate and respond to the 2016-2017 summer fire season around the country.
Among the actions to be undertaken are the construction and maintenance of firebreaks and the removal of combustible materials from lands throughout the national territory, strengthening the DNB by hiring 150 temporary firefighters and setting up 30 Emergency Support Sections within the army.
In addition, an early warning system will be created using watchtowers, regular overflights to spot developing fires and weather monitoring by Inumet.
“In terms of response, the (DNB), the coordination with the air force, the army, (the) departmental coordinated emergency centers, added to the National Police air operation, puts us in a response situation similar to and better than in other years,” Palomeque said.
However, he added that “this won’t stop fires from getting started and so we’re pointing to ... prevention via ... campaigns, like the one today, that show the main risk factors that lead to a forest fire.”