The president of the Officers Association of the Armed Forces (AOFA) says that the Air Force should be allowed to resume fighting the fires, considering that a political decision would save the state money.
“If there is a decision of the Government say that from today the Air Force (AF) could fight fires, we could not do so, because 20 years ago it removed the means to use the aircraft to fight fires.
Obviously you need to make a significant investment, “explained António Mota. He added that this would be cheaper to the state as the pilots are already paid and in service all year, and that the structures in the country such as airfields and runways, as well as mechanical and maintenance teams all exist.
António Mota emphasised that the AF “has been completely absent from fighting fires for 20 years,” and instead there was a series of agreements with private companies, which therefore have a monopoly in fighting fires in Portugal.
The official said that a report was discussed on Thursday, but the government, said it would require a budget of about 60 million euros over two years to again provide the FA with the means to fight the fires, including special training for pilots, as is the case in most European countries.
He then quoted the President of Madeira Government saying, ” that in Madeira alone losses from fires in two days have amounted to 55 million. It seems clear to most, that the means to fight fires should be allocated to the Air Force. He added that “that the government spends an average of one billion euros fighting the fires every year including the cost per flight of a “Kamov” helicopter of fighting a fire, being about 35,000 euros.
On the Internet there is a petition calling for the return of the AF for firefighting and now has more than 28,100 signatures, according to the AOFA.
The Minister of National Defence, Azeredo Lopes told RTP that it is “inevitable that the Air Force will be able to fight forest fires,” noting that at present, this force has neither planes nor helicopters with the capacity to do so. The Minister of Interior Constance Sousa Urban had has echoed that “at this time, the armed forces do not have any ability to fight fires.”She added that the Air Force pilots “do not know how to fight fires because flying a firefighting plane is not the same as flying a C-130 or F -16, and they need to have training”.
At present the Air Force is providing “logistical support to the aircraft provided by international partners,” including “two Moroccan Canadair, an Italian Canadair and two Beriev the Russian Federation..