More operational, more and more modern vehicles, three helicopters permanently, plus fixed lookout posts, a new extended GIPS GNR attack group, plus two ICNF vigilante teams, plus three permanent intervention teams, Analysis and Use of Fire from Special Firefighters, plus three teams of Forest Foremen, a new tactical team of track engineers and a new group of forest firefighters.

These are, in summary, some of the novelties of the Special Rural Fire Fighting Device (DECIR) for the Algarve, which was presented yesterday by the regional operational commander of Civil Protection, during the official opening of the Algarsafe fair in Portimao and in the presence of the Minister of Internal Administration.

Safe Communities Portugal was present at the opening and met with the Minister at their stand following the opening.

For the Algarve region, 623 firefighters, army and security forces are deployed with 161 vehicles and three helicopters at the most critical stage between 1 July and 30 September.

Commander Vaz Pinto also announced that this year, DECIR Algarve will have three more permanent intervention teams, distributed by Alcoutim, Monchique and Portimão, as well as an increase in logistics, support and forest fire teams.

The Algarve is also permanently active throughout the year with an expanded attack group of the GPR (National Intervention, Protection and Relief Group) of the National Republican Guard (GNR), made up of 30 soldiers and seven vehicles.

Minister Eduardo Cabrita, in charge of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, present at the DECIR presentation, then stressed the importance of having “for the first time an expanded attack structure of the GNR in the Algarve, one of the four existing on the continent”.

There will also be two light helicopters, with one more air medium being added between 1 July and 30 September. These initial attack helicopters, operated by GNR GIPS, are stationed in Monchique, Loulé and Cachopo, allowing full coverage of the region. There is also a fourth helicopter, in Ourique already in the Alentejo, but able to provide assistance to the Algarve, if necessary.

On the other hand, a new army military team will be integrated into surveillance actions in seven municipalities (Alcoutim, Castro Marim, Loulé, Monchique, São Brás de Alportel, Silves and Tavira), passing to seven the teams that will be vigilant in predominantly rural areas.

There will be two more teams of vigilantes from the Institute of Nature Conservation and Forests (ICNF), and the Fire Analysis and Use Team (EAUF) of the Loulé-based special firefighting force was reinforced and three teams of Sapadores Forestry, extending its action to the municipalities of Aljezur, Monchique and São Brás de Alportel.

New this year, it is also the tactical team of track engineers, with two specialists, ready to work together with the 10 track machines guaranteed by the municipalities.

There will also be a new forest firefighting group.

As for fixed lookout stations, this year there are a total of 12, of which five have already entered operation on 7 May and will extend their action until 6 November. The rest, take action on June 1.

In addition to the reinforcement of the means, the 16 municipalities also reinforced the financing for the device, an amount that this year is around 400 thousand euros.

For the firemen there will be an extra payment: they will receive 65 euros for every 24 hours of work, 50 euros being borne by the National Civil Protection Authority and the remaining 15 euros by the Intermunicipal Community of the Algarve (AMAL), made up of 16 algarvian chambers.

In fact, Jorge Botelho, president of AMAL, also present at the ceremony, stressed that “the municipalities of the Algarve are absolutely committed to making things go well, both in prevention and in combat”.

“We have all made a great effort to have a safer Algarve, where the rural fires should not happen, or where, if they happen, they will be fought immediately,” added the mayor.

For its part, Isilda Gomes, mayor of Portimão and vice-president of the National Association of Portuguese Municipalities, in charge of Civil Protection and Fire Brigade, defended that “never before had so much work been done to prevent rural fires”.

However, he admitted: “We can all do the best job possible, but, however much we do, things may not go well.”

At the end of a long presentation session of DECIR, which also includes the delivery to the 16 municipalities of Algarve and to AMAL itself of the certificates of “Resilient Municipalities”, delivered by the UN, the Minister of Home Affairs also emphasized the effort made throughout the country, in recent months, in terms of prevention.

The minister also praised the work of the GNR, which “over the five months of this year went far beyond its traditional functions”. So much so that in the first few months of the year it was “cleaned up a lot more, but the misconduct was also five times more than it had been last year.”

On the other hand, those arrested for forest fires also increased: “this number went from 12 last year to 74 this year … and we are still going in May”.

“After everything that happened last year, it is our duty to do everything so that nothing like this ever happens again,” concluded Minister Eduardo Cabrita.

Safe Communities Portugal was present at the opening and was an organising partner for the event.

Article curtesy Elisabete Rodreigas Informacao Sul