STAFF REPORTER THE Balearic government is to set up a total of 278 hectares of protective fire barriers in the region, Gabriel Vicens, regional Environment and Transport Minister said yesterday.

Vicens was speaking at a nature protection services (IBANAT) demonstration of the use of a helicopter in the prevention of the spread of a forest blaze.

The event, said Vicens, was part of an ongoing government strategy to develop increasingly sophisticated defences against the scourge of fire in the Balearics in dry periods of the year.

The number of fire barriers being cut into forested areas and designed to stop the spread of a blaze in its tracks is increasing in the Islands every year, claimed Vicens. In fact, the 278 hectares this year is 36 percent up on those built in 2009, the Minister added.

A pilot scheme has meanwhile been started in Calvia as part of a European wide programme of reducing fire risk in areas where residential homes are located either in or right next to forested areas. Similar programmes are being introduced in France, Portugal and on the mainland of Spain.

Fire barriers being set up on the perimeters of Costa den Blanes are aimed at minimising what could be a fire risk to the whole of the “na Burguesa” mountain range.

Vicens acknowledged that fire prevention needs to be part of public education. Throughout this spring, he reported, awareness campaigns about how to prevent fire in gardens and homes would be launched, encouraging people to recognise risk and take steps to prevent fire before it gets a hold.