Jersey City Fire Department Unveils New High-Pressure Engine

By Briana Vannozzi, NJTV

Its rebirth as a bustling urban center replete with tall buildings is a source of pride in Jersey City, but it’s also forced the city Fire Department to rethink the way it goes about its job.

On Monday, city officials unveiled what they said will be a big piece of the solution to that puzzle – a new, three-stage firetruck that will help city firefighters battle blazes at the upper reaches of the growing crop of skyscrapers rising along the Hudson River waterfront and elsewhere in the state’s second largest city.

“We have nine out of the 10 largest high rises in the state of New Jersey now. Many of them are larger than 500 feet,” said Mayor Steven Fulop. “We have the largest buildings in the state of New Jersey, both commercial and residential, and so this is a further investment to make sure that we’re keeping our residents safe.”

The city’s new rig is specially designed to battle the toughest blazes, those that occur in the far-reaching floors of tall buildings, officials said. Its powerful pumps will allow firefighters to get more water on a high-rise fire faster and much more simply.

Its power is matched by a high level of intelligent engineering. “This is the brains of it,” said Jersey City Fire Chief Steven McGill, as he showed off a complex panel of dials and gauges.

The new truck doubles the water pressure of standard engines to 1,000 pounds, allowing it to surpass the standpipes system firefighters currently rely on to reach upper floors.

“In the past we would hook 2 or 3 trucks together and feed water to each one to get higher pressures out of the end rig to get water into a building,” said Deputy Chief Henry DiGuilio. “This apparatus, we don’t need to do that.”

The rig, which officials say is the first of its kind in use in the state, costs nearly $700,000. The city anticipates needing another in the future, if development continues at this rate.

The new truck builds on other steps taken by the city Fire Department recently.

“We have more fire companies on duty, we’ve hired about 200 firefighters, but they really need the equipment to make sure that they can do the job,” Fulop said.

So far, the department hasn’t had any incidents it couldn’t reach. But there have been issues with fires at high-rises under construction. Officials say the new truck would have made their response faster and safer for everyone.

“Right now there’s about 5 or 6 what we call mega high-rises in the city, which is high-rises over 450 to 500 feet,” McGill said.

Preparation will be rigorous for the fire companies, officials say. Working with such high pressure water can cause catastrophic injuries. “So before this goes into service they’re going to know this truck inside and out,” DiGuilio said.

The department worked with the FDNY on training and information.

The chief expects to put the new rig into rotation with the regular trucks once training is complete in the next two weeks. It won’t be used exclusively for skyscrapers.

Product Post: Whelen 23″ Century Series Mini Lightbar

The Whelen 23″ Century Series Mini Lightbar is a low profile, mini lightbar that provides all the high performance LED warning and signaling benefits in a smaller size that fits all your special applications. The four linear corner modules have 6 Super-LED in each module and the eight inboard modules have 6 TIR style Super-LEDs in each module.

Low profile design with polycarbonate dome outer lens and compression fit gasket for superior moisture resistance. The Whelen exclusive Clip-Lock system allows for easy removal of lightbar domes for service, without compromising the weather resistant seal. Built on a Extruded aluminum platform, this mini lightbar is designed for long-life, reliable performance, ease of operation and serviceability.

These are Special Order items except for the Amber models. Please see our Return Policy for special order items.

Features:

  • Four linear corner modules have 6 Super-LED in each module.
  • Eight inboard modules have 6 TIR style Super-LEDs in each module.
  • Standard current switching with 17 Scan-Lock flash patterns and pattern override.
  • Low profile design with polycarbonate dome outer lens and compression fit gasket for superior moisture resistance.
  • The module configuration provides 360° coverage for SAE J845 Class I certification.
  • Clip-Lock system allows for easy removal of lightbar domes for service, without compromising the weather resistant seal.
  • Extruded aluminum platform for rugged, long-life dependability.
  • Available in Amber, Blue, White, Red and some split colors.
  • Color outer dome on solid Red, Blue, and Amber models.
  • Clear outer dome on split Red/Blue, Amber/White and Amber/Blue models.
  • Size: 23.25″ (591mm) L x 7.75″ (197mm) W x 2.375″ (61mm) H.

Stud mount version includes: Stud mount bracket and hardware.

Magnetic mount version includes:

  • 4 – 90 lb magnets.
  • A 10 foot cord and cigarette plug and on/off switch and momentary (pattern) switch.

Vacuum (Suction Cup)/Magnetic mount version includes:

  • 2 – 90 lb magnets inside of large suction cups.
  • A 10 foot cord and cigarette plug and on/off switch and momentary (pattern) switch.

Whelen Five Year HDP (Heavy-Duty Professional) Warranty on LEDs

WARNING: Under no circumstance should a magnetic mount light be used on a vehicle in motion. Doing so will violate all warranties and eliminate the possibility of returns or exchanges.

El Paso mass shooting being investigated as domestic terrorism

By Cedar Attanasio, Michael Balsamo and Diana Heidgerd
Associated Press

EL PASO, Texas — The shooting that killed 20 people at a crowded El Paso shopping area will be handled as a domestic terrorism case, federal authorities said Sunday as they weighed hate-crime charges against the gunman that could carry the death penalty.

A local prosecutor announced that he would file capital murder charges, declaring that the assailant had “lost the right to be among us.”

An employee crosses into the crime scene following a shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. (Mark Lambie/The El Paso Times via AP)
An employee crosses into the crime scene following a shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. (Mark Lambie/The El Paso Times via AP)

The attack on Saturday morning was followed less than a day later by another shooting that claimed nine lives in a nightlife district of Dayton, Ohio. That shooter was killed by police. Together the two assaults wounded more than 50 people, some of them critically, and shocked even a nation that has grown accustomed to regular spasms of gun violence.

Investigators were focusing on whether the El Paso attack was a hate crime after the emergence of a racist, anti-immigrant screed that was posted online shortly beforehand. Detectives sought to determine if it was written by the man who was arrested. The border city has figured prominently in the immigration debate and is home to 680,000 people, most of them Latino.

Using a rifle, the El Paso gunman opened fire in an area packed with as many as 3,000 people during the busy back-to-school shopping season.

Federal officials were treating the attack as a domestic terrorism case, according to the U.S. attorney.

The Justice Department was weighing federal hate-crime charges that would carry the death penalty, according to a person familiar with the department’s decision-making process. The person was not authorized to speak on the record and spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press.

Despite initial reports of possible multiple gunmen, the man in custody was believed to be the only shooter, police said.

Two law enforcement officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity identified him as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius. Authorities did not release his name but said he was arrested without police firing any shots. He is from Allen, which is a nearly 10-hour drive from El Paso.

There was no immediate indication that he had an attorney.

El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said he did not know where the weapon was purchased. He acknowledged that open carrying a long rifle in Texas is legal under state law.

“Of course, normal individuals seeing that type of weapon might be alarmed, but technically he was within the realm of the law,” Allen said.

The attack targeted a shopping area about 5 miles (8 kilometers) from the main border checkpoint with Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Many of the victims were shot at a Walmart.

“The scene was a horrific one,” Allen said.

The shooting came less than a week after a 19-year-old gunman killed three people and injured 13 others at the popular Gilroy Garlic Festival in California before dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Adriana Quezada said she was in the women’s clothing section of the Walmart with her two children when she heard gunfire.

“But I thought they were hits, like roof construction,” Quezada, 39, said of the shots.

Her 19-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son threw themselves to the ground, then ran out of the store through an emergency exit. They were not hurt, Quezada said.

Relatives said a 25-year-old woman who was shot while apparently trying to shield her 2-month-old son was among those killed. Mexican officials said three Mexican nationals were among the dead and six more were wounded.

Residents quickly volunteered to give blood to the wounded. President Donald Trump tweeted: “God be with you all!”

Authorities were searching for any links between the suspect and the material in the document that was posted online shortly before the shooting, including the writer’s expression of concern that an influx of Hispanics into the United States will replace aging white voters. That could potentially turn Texas blue in elections and swing the White House to Democrats.

“It’s beginning to look more solidly that is the case,” the police chief said.

The writer was also critical of Republicans for what he described as close ties to corporations and degradation of the environment. Though a Twitter account that appears to belong to Crusius included pro-Trump posts praising the plan to build more border wall, the writer of the online document says his views on race predated Trump’s campaign and that any attempt to blame the president for his actions was “fake news.”

Though the writer denied he was a white supremacist, the document says “race mixing” is destroying the nation and recommends dividing the United States into territorial enclaves determined by race. The first sentence of the four-page document expresses support for the man accused of killing 51 people at two New Zealand mosques in March after posting his own screed with a conspiracy theory about nonwhite migrants replacing whites.

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said he knew the shooter was not from the city.

“It’s not what we’re about,” the mayor said at the news conference with Gov. Greg Abbott and the police chief.

El Paso County is more than 80% Latino, according to the latest census data. Tens of thousands of Mexicans legally cross the border each day to work and shop in the city.

Trump visited in February to argue that walling off the southern border would make the U.S. safer. City residents and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, who is from El Paso, led thousands on a protest march past the barrier of barbed wire-topped fencing and towering metal slats.

O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman, stressed that border walls have not made his hometown safer. The city’s murder rate was less than half the national average in 2005, the year before the start of its border fence. Before the wall project started, El Paso had been rated one of the three safest major U.S. cities going back to 1997.

Product Post: The SoundOff Intersector Multi-Color Surface Mount Light & The SoundOff Intersector Multi-Color Under Mirror Light

Today we’re looking at two different SoundOff products – the Intersector Multi-Color Surface Mount Light and the Intersector Multi-Color Under Mirror Light. Both items feature 18 Ultra High Output Gen3 LEDs mounted in a half circle and backed by a reflector that aims the light evenly in a 180° full spread pattern. These lights were designed to mount to the surface of emergency vehicles to provide a critical intersection warning signal like no other light on the market.

Both lights offer intense 180 degree output that is maximized by the specially designed reflector that amplifies and throws the light at a perfect angle for intersection warning increasing officer safety & the safety of other motorists. The light beam is equally intensely bright from all 180°, and the built-in flasher provides 14 Multi-Color flash patterns, 18 Multi-Color Functions and a Cruise Mode is included. Both lights fall under SoundOff’s 5 Year No Hassle Warranty and are certified for SAE J845 Class 1 at a 100 degree angle.

Powerful output, wide angle, specially designed optics; all the things you’ve come to expect from a SoundOff Signal product.

Both Lights are now available in Dual Color and Tri-Color versions!

Features:

  • Innovative Intersector light offers a distinct safety advantage that no other light can offer.
  • Compact & bright, the light is designed to surface mount to any flat area.
  • First light of it’s kind to provide critical intersection warning signals on each side of the emergency vehicle.
  • Intense 180 degree output is maximized by the specially designed reflector that amplifies and throws the light at a perfect angle.
  • Made with 18 extremely bright Gen3 LEDs.
  • These lights are available in conbinations of Amber, Blue, Green, Red and White.
  • Built-in flasher provides 14 Multi-Color flash patterns, 18 Multi-Color Functions and a Cruise Mode is included.
  • This is a “Sync 2” product which can synchronize with all other Sync 2 product such as nFORCE Perimeter Lighting
  • Sync 2 products CANNOT synchronize with older products such as GHOST, LED3 and 4 wire 1 color Intersectors.
  • Ships with 1-light, 1-gasket, 1 surface mount flange with mounting hardware for installation.

Specifications:

  • Voltage: 10-16 VDC
  • Current: 1.25 Amps Max.
  • Certified for SAE J845 Class 1 at a 100 degree angle.

Optional mounting bracket available in the side bar.

SoundOff Signal 5 Year No Hassle Warranty

President Trump Signs 9/11 Victims’ Compensation Fund Extension

By JILL COLVIN and JONATHAN LEMIRE Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Monday signed a bill ensuring that a victims’ compensation fund related to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks never runs out of money, ending years of legislative gridlock as the number of first responders dying of Ground Zero-related illnesses mounted.

President Trump Signs 9/11 Victims’ Compensation Fund Extension
President Donald Trump holds up the signed H.R. 1327 bill, an act ensuring that a victims’ compensation fund related to the Sept. 11 attacks never runs out of money, in the Rose Garden of the White House, Monday, July 29, 2019, in Washington. (AP Caption and AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Appearing in the Rose Garden with more than 60 first responders from the 2001 terrorist attacks, Trump signed into law an extension of the fund through 2092, essentially making it permanent.

“You inspire all of humanity,” Trump said of the “true American warriors” who rushed to assist victims that day and searched for remains for months after.

The president said that the nation has a “sacred obligation” to care for the responders and their families.

The $7.4 billion fund had been rapidly depleting , and administrators recently cut benefit payments by up to 70%. The bill passed Congress on a bipartisan basis but only after delays by some Republicans exposed the legislative branch to brutal criticism from activists, including the comedian Jon Stewart.

Dozens of first responders, many gravely ill, would repeatedly travel to Washington to lobby lawmakers to extend the funding every time it needed to be reauthorized. Though their ranks shrunk, as emergency workers died of cancers and other diseases linked to the toxic fumes from the World Trade Center rubble, the fate of the funding had never been permanently guaranteed.

Luis Alvarez, a NYPD detective, appeared gaunt and ill when he testified before Congress last month, urging lawmakers to pass the measure to help his fellow first responders even if it were too late for him.

“You made me come down here the day before my 69th round of chemo and I’m going to make sure that you never forget to take care of the 9/11 first responders,” Alvarez said.

He died two weeks later.

More than 40,000 people have applied to the fund, which covers illnesses potentially related to being at the World Trade Center site, the Pentagon or Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after the attacks. Stewart, who made the cause a personal passion project, tore into the lawmakers’ inaction when he testified alongside Alvarez, creating a moment that was frequently replayed on cable news.

“Hundreds died in an instant. Thousands more poured in to continue to fight for their brothers and sisters,” Stewart said before the committee. “They did their jobs with courage, grace, tenacity, humility. Eighteen years later, do yours.”

A pair of Republican senators, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Arkansas, voted against the measure this month, preventing its adoption from being unanimous. Both cited the need to eliminate unnecessary spending and offset the measure with budget cuts.

Trump did not dwell on that division when he signed the bill, prompted a round of applause from first responders in the Rose Garden as well as his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who was mayor of New York City during the attacks and was widely praised for his leadership in the aftermath of the World Trade Center collapse.

President Donald Trump holds up H.R. 1327, an act ensuring that a victims’ compensation fund related to the Sept. 11 attacks never runs out of money, after signing it in the Rose Garden of the White House as member of the audience applaud and celebrate, Monday, July 29, 2019, in Washington. (AP Caption and AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Trump, whose real estate holdings that day included some 20 buildings in Manhattan, played up his own personal connection on Monday to the World Trade Center site.

“I was down there also, but I’m not considering myself a first responder,” the president said.

But a number of the president’s recollections about his own personal experiences that day cannot be verified, including his claims that he sent construction crews to help clear the site, that he had “hundreds” of friends die at Ground Zero and that he witnessed television coverage of Muslims in the United States cheering the destruction of the iconic skyscrapers.

President Donald Trump speaks before signing H.R. 1327, an act ensuring that a victims’ compensation fund related to the Sept. 11 attacks never runs out of money, in the Rose Garden of the White House, Monday, July 29, 2019, in Washington.
(AP Caption and AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

___

Lemire reported from New York.

HME Ahrens-Fox Awarded Three-Year California DGS Contract for OES Type 6 Wildland Apparatus

Grand Rapids/Wyoming, MIHME Ahrens-Fox has announced that it has been awarded a 3-year contract by the Department of General Services (DGS), through competitive bid, for the manufacture and equipping of a new edition of the Cal OES Type 6 Wildland apparatus. Production of the new Type 6 Wildland apparatus will begin in the spring of 2020 with the initial delivery of 81 units. The new Type 6 Wildland apparatus will also be available for purchase by all state agencies and institutions under the terms of the DGS contract.

Full page photo

HME Ahrens-Fox engineers and designers worked with Cal OES to develop an enhanced version of the traditional Type 6 Wildland apparatus with the capability to deliver additional fire suppression, more equipment storage capacity, and specialized power extraction and rescue tools.

OES Fleet Operations Deputy Chief Steve Hart has described this new Type 6 as a “Super-6”

Because of its overall improved functionality and features. The new “Super-6s” will be equipped with two pumps, a midship single-stage pump capable of 500-gpm performance, along with a portable diesel pump delivering 200 gpm, plus a 300-gallon water tank. The Super-6s will also incorporate an exclusive Ahrens-Fox foam system with a 20-gallon foam tank. Controls for the pumps and foam system are located at the rear of the vehicle.

Two booster reels, positioned on top of each side of the stainless-steel body, provide expanded pump-and-roll capability. One 300-foot reel of 1½-inch hose, and a 150-foot reel of 1-inch hose allow the Super-6 to operate effectively in both red and black zones while improving the trucks’ role in interface operations as well as wildland and brush fire applications.

The stainless steel, wildland style body has been expanded from previous Type 6 designs to match the larger storage capacity offered in the HME Ahrens-Fox MiniEvo™. The taller and expanded body features hard cover hosebed compartments, on top of the water tank, to protect hoses in burning canopies encountered in interface and wildland environments. The increased storage capacity, with pullout trays, shelving and tool boards, provides room for additional equipment and gear. The Super-6s will be delivered with a full complement of the advanced power extraction and rescue tools including spreaders and cutters, again enhancing versatility for a wide range of rescue operations. The trucks will also be equipped with a ladder stored in dedicated compartment. The corrosion resistant body incorporates HME Ahrens-Fox industry standard modular, aircraft quality construction for fast and economical repairs.

Special “Super-6” features include an electromechanical Screaming Eagle siren that projects sound forward, rather than producing a wall of sound. The siren reduces backwash in the cab. The forward focused siren provides better penetration at intersections, a real benefit for initial attack trucks like the Super-6. The Super-6 also incorporates a traditional electronic siren. The contract for the Super-6s continues a long relationship of apparatus development and production between HME Ahrens-Fox and Cal OES.

“HME started developing and supplying chassis (the original HME SFO® Short Front Overhang) for Cal OES in the late 1990’s,” noted HME Ahrens-Fox Vice President of Engineering, Ken Lenz. “Since then, we have continued to evolve with OES, and state fire agencies, to meet the need for efficient, complex and specialized apparatus to protect lives, property and wildlands for the residents of California. To date, we have supplied California with over 150 Type 1 interface, 300 Type 3 wildlands, and most recently, 12 hazmat handling team rescues. Our long-term working relationship continues today with the introduction of the new ‘Super-6’, Type 6 Wildland.”

For more information, visit www.firetrucks.com.

Product Post: Whelen Responder LP Mini Lightbar – Aluminum Base

The Whelen Responder LP Linear Super-LED Mini Lightbar is a low profile, mini lightbar that provides all the high performance LED warning and signaling benefits in a smaller size that fits all your special applications.

Super-LED modules in a rugged aluminum base are built to take the roughest conditions and long hours you face. They’re road tested, vibration and moisture resistant and use much lower current than other warning lights. Put a Responder LP to work on your utility, security, fleet, construction or public works vehicle.

This is a Special Order item. Special order items are non-cancelable, non-returnable, and non-refundable. All sales for special order items are final.

Feature:

  • 100,000 hour rated life.
  • Amber Super-LED, Linear-LED modules.
  • Built-in electronic flasher with 46 Scan-Lock flash patterns plus 4 simulated rotating patterns.
  • Action-Scan is the default flash pattern.
  • Amber polycarbonate dome with smooth exterior will not gather dirt and dust.
  • Rugged Aluminum Base.
  • Permanent mount includes 6″ pigtail.
  • Class 1, SAE J845 Certified.
  • Voltage: 12 VDC
  • Current: 6.0 amp draw (peak), 2.4 amp draw (avg)

Whelen 5 Year Warranty

Introducing the World’s Most Advanced Aerial Firefighting Surveillance Tool

By Ascent Vision Technologies

Bridger Aerospace has integrated technologies from Ascent Vision Technologies (AVT) and Latitude to introduce the world’s most advanced aerial firefighting surveillance system. To tackle the country’s most extreme fires, the Gen V system will be used by Bridger’s highly skilled and trained team of operators to better support wildfire management and relief missions.

The fully integrated system combines AVT’s revolutionary lightweight CM142 imaging payload; AVT’s Fire Mapper; and Latitude’s FVR-90 VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) unmanned aerial system. The CM142 optic delivers real-time aerial data, transferring high definition daylight and crisp long-wave infrared imagery directly to the remote ground station. The footage highlights hotspots, areas affected and areas at risk of damage. The Fire Mapper includes short-wave infrared, long-wave infrared and a 13-megapixel daylight sensor. Real-time fire mapping with live locations facilitates better decision making when responding to the fire.  

Bridger-CM142-1200px (002)

Latitude’s next generation VTOL provides greater flexibility in deployment, allowing take-off and landing to take place from any location, at any time. With an endurance of up to 15 hours, the system can perform for long durations to ensure the team collects the data required for the mission.

Using a fully integrated, user-friendly rover system, Bridger Aerospace will provide firefighters with remote access to live video with real-time overlays of telemetry and metadata. Operators can communicate to the aircraft using the primary datalink and a small portable handheld radio device. The system uses a MIMO (multi in multi out) data link, which extends the range from the ground station out to over 50nm.

The fully integrated system combines everything needed to support the US Government in tackling the country’s most dangerous fires, helping firefighters save lives and reducing damage. Bridger Aerospace is one of the two companies in the United States authorized to conduct BLOS (beyond line of site) flights in active fire zones. With over 13 years of experience in providing solutions for wildfire management, Bridger delivers revolutionary equipment and a skilled team of operators to tackle each firefighting mission.

CEO at Bridger Aerospace, Tim Sheehy, said “We have developed a world leading aerial firefighting surveillance tool that will transform aerial data collection for fire management and relief missions in the United States. The system includes Latitude’s FVR-90 VTOL, which is fitted with AVT’s high-performance CM142 sensor and Fire Mapper to support the US government in managing the country’s major wildfires.

This system will have a huge impact on wildfire management by providing all the essential tools needed to help save lives. This revolutionary firefighting surveillance solution will be controlled by Bridger’s highly-trained team of UAS operators to provide a world-leading service to combat wildfires.”

Integrated Systems Manager, Weston Irr, said “This marks the second year where Bridger Aerospace supports firefighting missions in the US using an unmanned aerial system. With our new Gen V fully integrated UAS system, we can provide firefighters with remote access to accurate, real-time imagery. This data will have a huge impact on the efficiency of their operation by facilitating fast and informed response to the fire.”

Product Post: Whelen Justice LED Lightbar

The Whelen Justice Competitor Series offers front, rear and all bar operation control, Scan-Lock flash patterns, pattern override feature, alley lights, take-downs, and low power operation.

This lightbar uses standard CON3 lighthead modules with removable optic spreading filters and the corner modules have 6 Super-LEDs each. Comes with LR11 LED Take-Downs and Alley Lights.

This lightbar is very service oriented. To change colors, upgrade or service lightbar in the field, simply remove four screws to access any section of the lightbar. Replace any lighthead by removing one screw and single connector. Black polycarbonate base on an extruded aluminum platform. 50 inches long, 12 inches wide and only 2 1/4 inches high (without mounting feet). Clear outer lens standard with a moisture resistance compression fit gasket. Standard passenger side cable.

This is a Special Order item. Special order items are non-cancelable, non-returnable, and non-refundable. All sales for special order items are final.

Features:

  • 4 – 6 Super-LED Corner Modules.
  • 12 – CON3 Super-LED Inboard Modules.
  • 2 – LR11 LED Take-Downs.
  • 2 – LR11 LED Alley Lights.
  • 2 Standard Flash Patterns.
  • Pattern Override.
  • Low Power Operation.
  • Size: 50″ L x 12″ W x 2.25″ H.

Available Color Configurations:

  • All Amber
  • All Blue
  • All Red
  • Red/Blue

Whelen Five Year HDP (Heavy-Duty Professional) Warranty on LEDs.

Deadly Wildfires Bring a New Challenge to Europe

By BARRY HATTON Associated Press

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — The European Union describes wildfires as “a serious and increasing threat” across the continent.

Most alarmingly, forest blazes are growing in intensity, especially in southern countries such as Greece, Spain, France, Italy and Portugal but also in Scandinavia.

Deadly Wildfires Bring a New Challenge to Europe
Fighters try to extinguish a wildfire near Cardigos village, in central Portugal on Sunday, July 21, 2019. About 1,800 firefighters were struggling to contain wildfires in central Portugal that have already injured people, including several firefighters, authorities said Sunday. Photo and Caption Courtesy of AP/Sergio Azenha)

Experts warn the continent needs to get ready for blazes that reach a massive new scale. These superfires, or mega-fires, are catastrophic events that kill and blacken broad areas and are hard to stop.

Here’s a look at Europe’s wildfire problem.

____

WHAT’S HAPPENING?

Between 2000 and 2017, 611 firefighters and civilians died in wildfires in European Union countries, with economic damage calculated at more than 54 billion euros ($60.5 billion).

Portugal suffers more than most, recording over 18,000 wildfires a year since 2007. Huge blazes in 2017 killed at least 106 people.

Though the European trend is for fewer blazes and smaller areas charred, except in Portugal, bigger and meaner forest fires are stretching emergency assets and government budgets.

Added to that, the peak fire season is becoming longer, extending into June and October, with an increasing number of mega-fires.

These extreme blazes are characterized by the rapid spread of flames, intense burning, unpredictable shifts in direction and embers that are carried far away.

But according to an EU report last year, authorities are still using traditional methods to fight fires, relying on water to extinguish flames instead of investing in long-term efforts needed for prevention.

____

WHAT’S CAUSING IT?

In Western Europe, people have been leaving the land and moving to the cities.

Abandoned fields, pastures and forests have been left to themselves, becoming overgrown with what turns into fuel for wildfires.

Instead of a properly tended patchwork of different vegetation, some of which is more fire-resistant, large areas of countryside have dense and continuous forest cover which benefit and propagate blazes.

Conifer forests and eucalyptus plantations, which provide income for landowners, are common and burn fiercely.

The spread of urban areas, meanwhile, has brought homes close to forests, and danger lies in the proximity.

In Greece last summer, an additional hazard came from lax oversight of urban planning. Illegally constructed buildings in woodland and coastal areas were a contributing factor in the deaths of 101 people in Mati, outside of Athens, where many drowned as they tried to swim away from intense heat and smoke engulfing beaches.

More severe droughts nowadays are leaving forests tinder-dry. Spells of unusually high temperatures are also facilitating blazes. Both of those challenges have come with climate change, with scientists saying that Sahara-like conditions are jumping the Mediterranean Sea into southern Europe.

Forest management policies work on a decades-long timescale and need to be more adaptable, EU authorities say.

Prevention “does not receive the necessary emphasis and funding compared to fire suppression,” according to the EU, while “the preparedness of agencies and communities to deal with extreme fire events is often far from optimal.”

____

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

Experts say authorities must shift their firefighting focus from suppression to prevention, taking into account aspects such as climate adaptation, education and preparedness.

That includes the regular thinning of forests and undergrowth; creating fire breaks; introducing more climate-resilient plant species; and ensuring diversified forests.

Preventively setting fire to countryside, called “prescribed burning,” is regarded as an efficient prevention technique but is controversial in some countries. Greece prohibits it while others, such as France, Portugal and some regions of Spain and Italy allow it under certain conditions.

Technology is also being developed to help fight wildfires, including drones for detection, quick responses, mapping and assessing fire dynamics.

But the EU notes that fire management in Europe is “not making full use of the knowledge and innovation delivered by scientific projects.”

The EU is urging governments to get a better grasp of how climate change is affecting their countries.

The European Forest Institute, established by 29 European countries, struck a gloomy note last year.

If authorities don’t change the make-up of the countryside, the EFI said in a report, emergency services won’t be able to stop what experts refer to as “6th generation wildfires” — commonly known as fire storms.

All contents © copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.