France and Spain join forces to fight cross-border wildfires
By David Álvarez
Capmany, Spain, April 19 (EFE).- Wildfires know no borders. As obvious as that may seem, Spanish and French firefighters were stuck within their own jurisdictions on either side of the Pyrenees, until European project Cooperem allowed for swift collaborations along the Franco-Spanish frontier.
La Jonquera, a Spanish village on the border, connects the two neighbours through a highway and multiple railways, which increase the risks of a fire sparking and spreading in both countries.
“Up to 80,000 vehicles travel through here every day,” says Anna Barnadas, head of environment at the Girona Provincial authority, an institution involved with Cooperem, which is financed by the European Regional Development Fund, within the France – Spain – Andorra operational programme.
“It all started with the Empordà fires in 2012, when we saw a clear need for mutual cooperation between both fire departments,” recalls Albert Ballesta, head of the Cooperem project.
The partnership is not limited to extinguishing the fires; it also works to prevent them from sparking altogether, by focusing on strategic hotspots that account for 80 to 90% of incidents in the region.
The 2012 fires started in a parking lot in La Jonquera, killing four people and consuming 14,000 hectares.
The cross-border project aims to minimize damages, allowing French and Spanish firefighters to freely roam into the neighbouring country up to 25 kilometres.
The project harmonized cross-border firefighting, ensuring a solution to the loss of radio frequency transmissions when moving into the neighbouring country, among other complications.
Cooperem also solved compatibility issues between faucet mounts used by both fire departments, which made it impossible to reload water trucks while operating across the border.