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Fighting fire with fire

August 27, 2009

Smoke hangs over the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Photo by Erinn Unger.Controlled burns are a fairly routine sight for those Americans like me who have lived in California’s fire-prone areas. Firefighters set these fires in the winter to clear dry brush that can turn a forest into a tinderbox during the summer.

They are also currently forbidden in Greece.

The European Fire Paradox Project adds in another technique, called “tactical fire” which Greece has not embraced just yet either, according to an article from the BBC.

Tactical fire uses a new fire to extinguish an existing one.

One of the more effective options within the realm of tactical fire is to set a line of fire close to the front you’re trying to extinguish, said Francisco Castro Rego, co-ordinator of the Fire Paradox project, to the BBC. When they’re getting cozy, the in-draft of air will suck the fires together, burning all the fuel and putting the fires out.

Don’t ask me how it works in scientific terms, but according to them, it does, and has been successful with fires in South America.

Fire Paradox has talked with the Greek government about its techniques, according to the article. However, it seems those methods have not been tried.

According to a report from one of Fire Paradox’s partners, Antonis Mantzavelas, with OMIKRON Ltd., a environmental engineering and natural resource management consulting company in Thessaloniki, Greece:

“What we (as foresters) try to make clear at every level is that it should be a law establishing the obligation of consistent and integrated Prevention Plans with state and local applicability, revised regularly, with clear objectives, measures and budget specifically for the WUIs.”*

These techniques do have their risks, but when the smoke clears from the latest devastation, we’ll see if Greece opens up to fighting fire with fire.

(Check out this paper from the Human Ecology Review for a comparison of Greek and American wildfire management.)

*WUI is Wildland Urban Interface, like the Athenian suburbs.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. PAT permalink
    August 27, 2009 23:32

    Good post, Erinn!

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