Over 500 firefighters, foresters and employees of the institutions responsible for managing forest fires participated in the national exercise “ForFirEx 2019”, held in several mountain areas in Caraș-Severin and Hunedoara Counties, between September 23-27.
The exercise has begun on Monday, September 23, when, according to the scenario, due to the prolonged drought, there were several outbreaks of litter fires. The scenario also included a more complex situation in which the capabilities available in Caraș-Severin and Hunedoara counties were overcome. In order to manage the event, IGSU (General Inspectorate for Emergency Situation) arranged the on-site supplementation of the resources from the neighbouring counties and the establishment of operational coordination points in the affected areas.
The situations in which rescuers and authorities were placed were among the most complex, requiring integrated intervention for organizing air-to-ground intervention in difficult areas, creating extinguishing devices with multiple pumps to transport water to the mountain, resupplying water tanks with helicopters, as well as rescuing missing or lost people in hard-to-reach areas.
Also, logistical support camps were created to ensure the accommodation and feeding of the forces deployed in the area. Were also simulated actions of evacuation and reception of the locals from the areas potentially affected by the fires.
During the exercise were used special large capacity fire trucks, SMURD ambulances (Mobile Emergency Service for Resuscitation and Extrication), camps and mobile hospitals, accessories for advanced technical rescue, uncovering and removing trees or other obstacles, MAI (Ministry of Internal Affairs) and MApN (Ministry of National Defence) helicopters, drones, specialized off-road vehicles, search and rescue dogs, as well as other specialized equipment.
The actions in the field aimed both the testing of the immediate response from the authorities in the areas of the fires, as well as the national support granted by supplementing the firefighters and the equipment from other IGSU units, respectively the engagement of the terrestrial and air resources of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of National Defense, Ministry of Water and Forests, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Transport, Special Telecommunications Service, Forestry Direction, Mountain Rescue, specialized associations, like the aerospace research, off-road, radio amateurs, canines rescue units.
One of the most exhausting interventions of the firemen is the one to extinguish the forest fires, produced in the mountain areas. Why? Because it involves a great effort from the rescuers, the affected area is large, the combustion is easily propagated and, in most cases, finding a source of water, which allows the supply of equipment and special vehicles, is a challenge. On the first day of the exercise, in mountainous areas in Caraș-Severin and Hunedoara counties, hundreds of firefighters, as well as the other authorities involved had to manage scenarios that assumed conditions similar to those encountered in forest fires. They had to identify solutions for water transport near the place of fire, at over 100 meters difference in level, they carried the equipment on slopes that seemed inaccessible; they used several techniques, tactics and equipment, all necessary to extinguish the fire. At the same time, the situations involved the rescue of missing or lost people in hard-to-reach areas.
Sustained efforts for over 72 hours, counter-chronometer actions, adrenaline, physical exhaustion and perfect timing – that will define the ForFirEx2019. The rain, the wind, the steep slopes or the mud deposited on the boots did not discourage the Romanian rescuers during the three days of training.
The most complex firefighting drill in Romania – ForFirEx2019, reaches its last days, where hundreds of firefighters, as well as the other authorities involved, had to manage scenarios that assumed conditions similar to those encountered in the forest fires. They had to manage complex situations for organizing air-to-ground intervention in difficult areas, carrying and installing extinguishing devices with several pumps to transport water to the mountain, resupplying water tanks with helicopters, and saving missing or lost people in areas hardly accessible. During these days, land and aircrews from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Water and Forests, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Transport, the Special Telecommunications Service, the Forestry Direction, Mountain Rescue, and specialized associations, like the aerospace research, off-road, radio amateurs, canines rescue units, come together as one team.
A detachment from the Air and Land Forces had participated, with specific technical means, to the combined exercise ForFirEx2019. It included 20 soldiers, with two Land Forces’ trucks, one C-27 J Spartan aircraft and two helicopters for the transport of materials and for the transport of victims from the Romanian Air Force, as well as the staff in charge of the Emergency Response Cell within the MApN and liaison officers from the advanced operational points.
Between 2017 and 2018, in Romania, there were more than 200 forest fires that affected almost 800 hectares of forested areas, requiring complex and long-term actions to limit the extension and extinction of outbreaks.
Forest fires are characterized by very rapid flame propagation and difficult access, which is why it is necessary to reduce the response time through an immediate intervention with a large dislocation of human and material resources.
The intervention in such situations is realized by the implementation of the “National concept of response in case of forest fires” by all the institutions that compose the National System for the Management of Emergency Situations (SNMSU) and that can make available the necessary human and material resources, for the purpose of limiting, removing the fires’ consequences and returning to normal conditions.
The conclusions of the “ForFirEx” exercise will be the basis for updating and completing the operative documents for organizing interventions in forest fires and will outline the operational needs and dedicated equipment and structures for this type of risk.