STAFF REPORTER
IT may be too soon to celebrate but the Balearic Environment Ministry revealed yesterday that for the first time in ten years, there were no reports of forest fires breaking out in the region during the month of July.

A Ministry spokesman said that this does not mean that all territory on the Islands has escaped fire damage there were 17 “near misses” last month. This refers to occasions when burning has occurred but has inflicted damage to an area of less than one hectare.

In spite of the good news, the Ministry was anxious yesterday that fire fighting units and the public at large should not lower their guard as at this time of year in intense heat, blazes can spring up in no time at all.

Over the last decade, the worst July in terms of the number of forest fires that had to be tackled fell in 1996 when a total of 10 were registered. Generally speaking, 2 or 3 forest fires happen every year in July but there are exceptions. As well as the 10 in 1996, there were 4 in 2003, 5 in 2004, 4 in 2005, and just one in 2006.

The number of “near misses” which reached 17 last month falls within the average which have been recorded for July over the past 10 years.
In order to stop fire sweeping across the Islands, regional government has made important changes in the means of extinguishing a blaze from the air. The fleet of specially equipped small aircraft has been modernised meaning that none of its members are over 15 years old. Another key advantage is that the planes can carry 19'000 litres of water with which to bombard the flames. There is also a rapid response ground team of 40 specialists who can reach the scene of the fire in double quick time. Operations also involve extended “look out” tours of duty in areas that are of particular high risk - from the air, and on land from both fixed and mobile “fire watch” units.

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