TOUCH wood, the number of forest fires in the Balearics this summer have been few and far between, but IBANAT, the Balearic Nature Institute, operated by the Balearic Environment Ministry, is leaving nothing to chance and it is maintaining a 24-hour watch across all of the island's danger spots. IBANAT has a team of spotters who man watch towers built in strategic positions and also patrol the islands from the air. It is the spotters who are the first to call the fire and emergency crews on the ground. Dotted across the region are a total of 26 spotters, 18 in Majorca, six in Ibiza and two in Minorca and standing-by around the clock are the fire fighters who battle the flames from the Balearic skies. IBANAT's aerial team consists of helicopters and Dromadair fire fighting planes. While the air crew are based at Son Bonet airfield near Palma, they have access to a secondary airfield near Arta where the planes can take on more water - the helicopter have the fortune of being able to refill their buckets from swimming pools in the case of extreme emergencies. The crucial time of the day for all the spotters and air crews is between 11 am and 8pm - during which time IBANAT is on a constant emergency footing. IBANAT's operations during the day are also backed up by special Guardia Civil forestry protection units which patrol hot spots in specially customised and equipped four-wheel-drive vehicles. Throughout the day all the teams on the ground are in constant contact with a spotter plane keeping watch from the air.


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