Fighting Madeira bush fires: a giant step forward

Bosbranden 2016: eindelijk een stap voorwaarts.

A gigantic step forward has been taken in fighting the Madeira bush fires since the bushfires of 2016. After the trials started in May with extinguishing forest fires from the air, the reports have now been published. Maybe the forest fires 2016 eventually even woke up the regional government. About time, too!

The forest fires on Madeira in the summer of 2016 were more devastating than ever before. The government of the Autonomous Region of Madeira played a strange role in the time that followed: firefighting experts and the public wondered why it is not possible to extinguish from the air in Madeira. The first fires can usually be found in very mountainous terrain that is totally inaccessible to fire engines. With extinguishing helicopters or aeroplanes, a starting fire – the smoke can usually be seen from very far away – could be extinguished quickly. The government always objected that seawater – there are no large freshwater lakes on the island – is bad for the vegetation and – in inhabited areas – for existing structures. A drunken argument: without extinguishing, there is no vegetation to worry about and in built-up areas, the affected buildings are completely lost after such a fire. Anyone with common sense naturally wonders why the government is acting in this way. The answer is simple: on Madeira we have a big problem of corruption and nepotism. There are companies that make a lot of money repairing damage caused by forest fires. We don’t know exactly who they are, and above all, in whose hands they are, but it wouldn’t surprise us if the tentacles of the Grupo Sousa, the maritime transport monopoly held by the regional government, could be found here as well.

So, under great pressure from the public, trials have started in May to see if aerial extinguishing can indeed be a solution. The tests have now been completed, faster than everyone had thought. The conclusion is that aerial extinguishing is sensible and feasible. We were very surprised when we read that the government itself is now going to come up with plans to introduce those fire extinguishers – they will be helicopters in the case of Madeira. We are far from there yet, but we already feared that the regional government would nip the idea in the bud. Apparently that has not happened, under pressure from public opinion and social media, which have made themselves heard after the terrible fires of 2016. We will keep you informed. Let us hope that the fierce and devastating forest fires of 2016 are not repeated.

Below is a link to the English-language MadeiraIslandNews blog, which in turn has taken the text from the island’s Portuguese news media via a quick Google translation.

(A translation from the Diario Noticias) The Regional Government of Madeira this afternoon issued a statement confirming receipt of the report of the study on the use of aerial means in firefighting. A report that is in favour of this option. “The report of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, received today, June 20, 2017, indicates […].

Source: Madeira Firefighting from the Skies – Madeira Island News

Update on February 9, 2020. Unfortunately, the penny-wise and pound-foolish Madeiran regional government, preferring financing expensive projects that lend more fame to themselves, thought 4 months a year should be enough to have a helicopter present. Fighting Madeira bush fires will only be necessary four months a year, right? The idiots. The grave – and lit – fires in Ponta do Pargo earlier this week proved them wrong – big time.


By Peter Groen

Peter was born in Amsterdam in 1949. He has a history in PR and copywriting. Now, part time resident of the Island of Madeira of over 10 years, he writes about Madeira, its culture, its overwhelming nature, its food and drink, and about everything concerning travel to and on this beautiful island.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.