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    Fire in Rio Grande Do Sol a Recurring Problem

    By Marcos Antonio Camargo

    When I started writing this article, we were contacted for another firefighting operation in the fields of the West Frontier of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil. Our teams are already moving to the “operational theatre,” having already been involved in this mission for over two days. Unlike aerial fighting in the winter months in other parts of Brazil, the fires occurring during the summertime here in southern Brazil are unusual.

    In an article in our sister publication, AgAir Update, I wrote about the different crops covering our fields in spring. Today, except for irrigated rice fields, the predominant cover is that of dry vegetation, burned and buffeted by an intense heatwave that can bring maximums close to 50ºC/122ºF this time of year. In January, our neighbor, Argentina, faced its fourth hottest day in 115 years since the National Meteorological Service of Argentina started recording data. The drought in the South and the excess rain in the Midwest and North have led to extreme weather events. The heatwave has kept the temperature above 40ºC/104ºF in the southern states of Brazil, and according to the Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives of the State of Rio Grande do Sul, 159 municipalities are already in an emergency status due to the drought that started in November. Estimates put financial losses in soybean and corn crops in the order of $19.8 billion, just in this state alone.

    DIFFICULTIES IN COMBAT

    This problem occasionally occurs throughout the year but has started to reoccur on a more regular basis. When this happens, our agricultural aircraft are activated for firefighting duties, mainly by growers, to help contain fires to minimize the damage to fields, crops, homes and rural facilities. There have already been fires close to the city. Fighting fires in this area does not come without its challenges and problems. Inadequate runways for the operation of larger aircraft and delays in fire dispatching have made some incidents very difficult to control.

     IN THE BEGINNING, IT IS ALWAYS EASIER

    A few years ago, to solve this problem, I suggested to a representative of the municipal legislature that he spearhead a project to allocate resources to combat aerial firefighting issues in the city and the countryside more effectively.

    Allocations for these kinds of resources should be completed in all municipalities with agricultural aviation in their territory; however, nothing has been done to date. Despite when fires approach, some politicians have contacted us calling for emergency aircraft without predicting where the resources will come from to be able to face the problem. I pray that the issue will not be forgotten after the first rains of the season here. It is better to think about prevention for the future than to have to rebuild what the fire destroyed. Indeed, the cheapest way will always be prevention.

    For our part, we can’t take off without government authorization. The actions need to be defined in advance to be executed promptly. Aviation knows that the path of prevention is always the best and safest, so the maintenance of our aircraft is always carried out preventively. Aircraft, especially the larger ones because of their greater capacity and speed, are straightforward to get to fire spots and change their decision on where to attack, if the wind changes, for example. Access difficulties, such as geographic features, fences, rivers, and even construction, do not prevent us from getting to where the fire is burning very quickly in critical situations.

    Unlike firefighters and ground crews formed by growers, who face many difficulties to reach the fires, we just need water and safe and adequate runways to operate larger aircraft. Our deficiency in these areas is great. We have our municipal airport, a runway that offers all security to the west of the city, but we do not have water to load the aircraft quickly. Until the water truck arrives, precious time is lost. This difficulty is repeated throughout the city. We need to create a channel between aviation and firefighters because the aircraft can overcome the intrinsic mobility difficulties of the ground crews, guiding them where the situation is most critical and needs more attention.

    To conclude, I suggest to politicians, public managers, and civil entities that they work on prevention and take action so that when activating aircraft, we have the resources and structure to act quickly. We are always ready, as we have always been, for the promotion and protection of agriculture and livestock, the basis of the economy of our municipality, and for Brazil. The situation we face in Brazil currently reminds me of the famous quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. ” Albert Einstein

     

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