Since 2004 I have published, first in a regional newspaper and then in a national, my surprise and now indignation for the contempt of our rulers in this democracy for the safety of people and their property, writes Jack Soifer
In December, 2013, Vida Economica wrote, "Organised by the Civil Protection department in Viseu and the National Firemen's Association, a seminar on forests was held. Jack Soifer detailed the costs of lack of prevention. "It's much more expensive to put out fires than to prevent them," he said.
The methods of prevention as used in other countries are ignored here. “In the last ten years, Portugal has lost between €45 and €55 billion in exports, plus the cost of additional imports, as a result of forest fires."
Back in September 2010, I published "It is necessary to change the law and make arson a crime against national security, warranting 30 years in prison.
We need to know who gives orders to the the poor fellows who are caught. Because there are huge economic interests behind these fires.
Whoever orders a fire to be started is a traitor of the nation and deserves a long prison sentence! Change the constitution so that you can use temporary electronic wristbands on those suspected of being arsonists.
"In other countries, some with a ten times larger territory, forest fires are rare and are soon put out. The Nordic countries subsidise the fuel costs for aero clubs to keep day/night planes/drones flying over high risk areas. This also is good for amateur pilots who need to fly many hours a year and it is good for finding fires when they have just started. Other countries use drones with cameras which transmit pictures."
I detailed for the Civil Protection service and the Firemen's Association the methods used in several countries, such as in France, to detect signs of forest fires. There they also use small cameras mounted on poles on the top of hills. Images are interpreted by software, integrated with the speed and direction of the winds in each risky valley area. Alerts then are sent to the nearest firefighters who, almost before a fire starts, are in place and ready to douse it. This system also records pictures of suspects for the police to move in on before a fire is deliberately set.
"The fires will continue! As it is much cheaper for some giga-enterprises to buy burned land and change if from protected status to urban building land; and for others to buy cheap ‘damaged’ wood for cork and paper production."
The constant failures of equipment, communications, etc. have long been predicted. The 'theatre of operations' as the boss call it, is well rehearsed to give the impression of effectiveness, where the person in charge give out details, such as the number and type of vehicles, number of firemen, etc. But they do not say what they have done to avoid such tragedies in which it is always the poor that die and their property that is destroyed, as in Shakespeare.
TV reporters prefer a backdrop of flames rather than undramatic fire prevention stories.
Who wants nothing to change after 15 years of fires and the abundance of available technology - those who spend billions of taxpayers’ money on fire fighting equipment? Some intelligence is needed to prevent, not to combat fires, to beat this in peace and security. Preventing rather than fighting fires would cost less than a tenth, and this does not please those in charge.
Some wish the fires to continue. Many more than the 64 loyal and hardworking Portuguese at Pedrógão Grande will die and we will lose further billions of euros of forest and rural tourism income.
©Jack Soifer 2017