Guatemalan Defense Brigades Help Fight Forest Fires

Guatemalan Defense Brigades Help Fight Forest Fires

By Dialogo
March 10, 2015





The Guatemalan Ministry of Defense has mobilized its 75 forest firefighting brigades to combat the forest fires that threaten half of the country’s 22 departments.

These firefighting brigades are helping combat the forest blazes in a variety of ways.

“The functions that have been assigned to the forest fire brigades are providing human resources and necessary transportation, and conducting aerial reconnaissance,” explained Infantry Colonel Hugo Rodríguez Cifuentes, chief of the press department and spokesman of the Guatemalan Army.

The role of the firefighting brigades in defeating forest fires is crucial.

“The Troops’ work is very important because they provide support in fighting fires, and their biggest contribution is how well they coordinate the different fire brigades, due to the training they’ve received,” said Adolfo García Gamboa, national director of the National System for Prevention and Control of Forest Fires (SIPECIF).

The National Institute of Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology, and Hydrology (INSIVUMEH) predicts that conditions in March and April will be ideal for forest fires to spread in Guatemala. Therefore, the service members who make up the 75 forest fire brigades have trained together with members of the other five institutions that constitute SIPECIF.

Firefighting Brigades at the ready


The Military is prepared to stop the forest fires, according to INSIVUMEH official César George. The Armed Forces firefighting brigades have been deployed to the Departments of Zacapa, Totonicapán, Quetzaltenango, Quiché, Petén, Jalapa, Jutiapa, Huehuetenango, Guatemala, Escuintla, and Sololá.

Since January 1, Defense Ministry brigades have assisted in extinguishing two fires: one on January 11 in Quetzaltenango and the other on January 26 in Huehuetenango.

Each of the Defense Ministry's 75 forest fire brigades consists of an officer and 49 troops, all of whom have received training from the National Institute of Forests (INAB) on firefighting techniques.

The brigades use three techniques: rounds, which consists of digging a trench around the fire to keep it from spreading; backfires, where assistance is provided from the air to put out the flames; and water resources that are used in different ways to put out the fire, explained Col. Rodríguez Cifuentes.

Firefighters use the best protective gear available, including helmets and goggles, masks or neckerchiefs, and leather gloves. In addition to the protective attire, firefighters also use Garmin GPS navigators, five-gallon dorsal pumps, Pulaskis with high-grade tempered steel blades, McLeod fire tools, shovels, and rakes.

Members of the fire brigades also try to prevent forest fires from occurring by conducting public awareness talks with members of the public.

Warm temperatures increase fire risk


Firefighting brigades may have a busy spring, based on weather forecasts which predict warmer than usual temperatures.

Temperatures from March to May are predicted to be 39ºC-41ºC in northeastern Guatemala, 38ºC-40ºC in Petén, and between 30ºC-33ºC in the Central Highlands, which includes Guatemala City, according to George.

These above-normal temperatures, together with the low humidity on the ground, increase the likelihood of forest fires, George said.

The forest fire season begins in November and lasts until June, according to David de León, spokesman for the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (CONRED), which is part of SIPECIF.

CONRED recorded 833 forest fires in the 2013-2014 season; 129 of those occurred in Petén. In the 2012-2013 season, there were 383 such disasters, 62 of which happened in Quiché.

The forest fire brigades were created in 2001 under Government Agreement 63-2001, which created SIPECIF, consisting of elements from the Ministry of Defense, the National Council on Protected Areas (CONAP), the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, the Executive Coordination Office of the President, INAB, and CONRED.








The Guatemalan Ministry of Defense has mobilized its 75 forest firefighting brigades to combat the forest fires that threaten half of the country’s 22 departments.

These firefighting brigades are helping combat the forest blazes in a variety of ways.

“The functions that have been assigned to the forest fire brigades are providing human resources and necessary transportation, and conducting aerial reconnaissance,” explained Infantry Colonel Hugo Rodríguez Cifuentes, chief of the press department and spokesman of the Guatemalan Army.

The role of the firefighting brigades in defeating forest fires is crucial.

“The Troops’ work is very important because they provide support in fighting fires, and their biggest contribution is how well they coordinate the different fire brigades, due to the training they’ve received,” said Adolfo García Gamboa, national director of the National System for Prevention and Control of Forest Fires (SIPECIF).

The National Institute of Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology, and Hydrology (INSIVUMEH) predicts that conditions in March and April will be ideal for forest fires to spread in Guatemala. Therefore, the service members who make up the 75 forest fire brigades have trained together with members of the other five institutions that constitute SIPECIF.

Firefighting Brigades at the ready


The Military is prepared to stop the forest fires, according to INSIVUMEH official César George. The Armed Forces firefighting brigades have been deployed to the Departments of Zacapa, Totonicapán, Quetzaltenango, Quiché, Petén, Jalapa, Jutiapa, Huehuetenango, Guatemala, Escuintla, and Sololá.

Since January 1, Defense Ministry brigades have assisted in extinguishing two fires: one on January 11 in Quetzaltenango and the other on January 26 in Huehuetenango.

Each of the Defense Ministry's 75 forest fire brigades consists of an officer and 49 troops, all of whom have received training from the National Institute of Forests (INAB) on firefighting techniques.

The brigades use three techniques: rounds, which consists of digging a trench around the fire to keep it from spreading; backfires, where assistance is provided from the air to put out the flames; and water resources that are used in different ways to put out the fire, explained Col. Rodríguez Cifuentes.

Firefighters use the best protective gear available, including helmets and goggles, masks or neckerchiefs, and leather gloves. In addition to the protective attire, firefighters also use Garmin GPS navigators, five-gallon dorsal pumps, Pulaskis with high-grade tempered steel blades, McLeod fire tools, shovels, and rakes.

Members of the fire brigades also try to prevent forest fires from occurring by conducting public awareness talks with members of the public.

Warm temperatures increase fire risk


Firefighting brigades may have a busy spring, based on weather forecasts which predict warmer than usual temperatures.

Temperatures from March to May are predicted to be 39ºC-41ºC in northeastern Guatemala, 38ºC-40ºC in Petén, and between 30ºC-33ºC in the Central Highlands, which includes Guatemala City, according to George.

These above-normal temperatures, together with the low humidity on the ground, increase the likelihood of forest fires, George said.

The forest fire season begins in November and lasts until June, according to David de León, spokesman for the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (CONRED), which is part of SIPECIF.

CONRED recorded 833 forest fires in the 2013-2014 season; 129 of those occurred in Petén. In the 2012-2013 season, there were 383 such disasters, 62 of which happened in Quiché.

The forest fire brigades were created in 2001 under Government Agreement 63-2001, which created SIPECIF, consisting of elements from the Ministry of Defense, the National Council on Protected Areas (CONAP), the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, the Executive Coordination Office of the President, INAB, and CONRED.




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