by Staff Reporter

PALMA
THE total forest area burned in the Balearics during the first seven months of 2007 was 85 hectares, which was just over half the woodland destroyed by fire in the same period last year, Miquel Angel Grimalt, the Balearic environment minister, revealed yesterday.

It is also below the average area burned over the last 10 years, which is 141 hectares.
Grimalt was speaking at Son Bonet airfield, where he was reviewing the fire fighting and prevention sources of Ibanat (the Balearic Nature Institute), which are kept there.

He said that the region has had a “relatively quiet” year as the area burned represented 53.85 per cent of the 158.50 hectares which were destroyed between January and July last year.

In addition to this, Grimalt explained that the work done by Ibanat is “very important” in relation to the prevention and extinction of forest fires.
He said that the organisation had nearly 400 staff, who work during the season when there is most risk of fires, four helicopters, six aircraft and a total of 22 “watch” teams who will act “as quickly as possible” when a fire is discovered.

Grimalt confirmed that during the current term of office for the Balearic Government, they will increase the resources for the fight against forest fires and, above all, in vigilance as, he said, if immediate action is taken when the fire is discovered, “it is much easier to put out”.

Grimalt said that citizen collaboration is very important and encouraged people to inform the appropriate authorities when they see anything which could cause a fire.

He pointed out that the Balearics has 223'600 hectares of forest land, nearly 45 per cent of the total area, which is “very difficult to control”.
Grimalt also commented that all the “recommendations” from the different adminstrative bodies should be complied with to avoid forest fires, as the region is now in the “maximum risk” time of the year.

With regard to this, Grimalt explained that he had brought forward the incorporation of the fire fighting planes and mobile observation posts.
A new control system to improve the capacity to get to the fire immediately and improve safety will also be installed.

RESOURCES
Ibanat currently has the following resources:
· A staff of 378 persons. l 4 helicopters (2 in Majorca, 1 in Ibiza and 1 in Minorca). l 3 AT-802 planes (2 in Majorca and 1 in Ibiza); a seaplane in Majorca; an observation and co-ordination plane which collaborates with another for observing the coast. l 22 vigilance brigades (15 in Majorca, 4 in Ibiza, 2 in Minorca and 1 in Formentera). l 6 fire engines (3 in Majorca, 2 in Ibiza and 1 in Minorca).

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