THE Military Emergency Brigade (UME) is going to be deploying two units to Majorca this year to bolster the island's forest fire fighting capabilities while the Balearic Environment Ministry unveiled a new public awareness campaign yesterday because, according to the Environment and Transport Minister, Gabriel Vicens, negligence is the cause of 42 percent of forest fires every year in the region.

The first of the 11-day military deployments, which is part of the central government's national anti-forest fire operation, is going to take place in the middle of July with the second unit setting up camp at the Jaume II barracks in Palma from August 9 to 20.

The DGE Emergency Department explained yesterday that during their deployments, the soldiers will familiarise themselves with the territory, in particular the forest fire black spots, and also carry out a series of duties such as preparing forest fire breaks in the most vulnerable areas of the island.

A number of training exercises will also be carried out in cooperation with the Majorcan fire brigade, the Local Police, Ibanat forestry protection department and the Ministry for Environment.

Two new emergency communication systems will also be set up and tested in association with the 112 emergency call centre.
The two 30-strong units will also be coming to the island with various special fire fighting vehicles.
The public awareness campaign which was unveiled by the Balearic government yesterday consists of over 2'000 special leaflets and DVDs which are going to be primarily distributed amongst the more vulnerable households in wooded or mountainous areas of the region.

Minister Vicens said yesterday that 42 percent of forest fires are caused by negligence while a further 35 percent are intentional.
Negligence includes the throwing of cigarette butts from vehicles in high risk fire black spots, the lighting of camp fires, which is illegal during the summer, the use of fireworks and poor control of summer bbqs. “What we want to do is to reduce the number of forest fires by increasing the public awareness, Vicens said yesterday.

That said, he said that over recent years, forest fire damage has been significantly reduced due to the increase in professional personnel and equipment involved in the prevention and fighting of fires. Last year 109.8 hectares were destroyed by fire, well below the annual average of 401.22 over the past decade.