UK Firefighters Receive Essential Wildfire Training in Spain

A firefighter at a moor fire

UK firemen went to Spain for training. Credit: GMFRS/X

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) now has a live wildfire burns suppression team, also known as the burns team, after completing training in Catalonia with the Catalonian Fire and Rescue Service (Bombers) GRAF team.

The GRAF (Group of Support to Forest Actions) team is made up of wildfire specialists and world experts in using fire as a tool to manage vegetation – called prescribed burning – and conducting tactical burns to create fire breaks.

In essence, they fight fire with fire.

Ady Taylor, wildfire lead for GMFRS and National Wildfire Tactical Advisor for the National Fire Chiefs Council, said: “The conditions over in Catalonia are ideal to prepare us for dealing with dry moorland here in the warmer months.

Large wildfires were once rare in the UK. When satellite monitoring started in 2006 through the EU’s Copernicus system, no large fires were recorded for five years until 2011. Since then, 599 large wildfires have been recorded, burning 126,618 hectares (310,000 acres).

Bruce Farquharson, deputy assistant chief officer with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, which battled the second-largest wildfire in UK history in April this year in Glenuig, Lochaber, said the brigade had invested in new training and prevention measures.

“We must adapt to meet the predicted rise in weather extremes in the years to come”

To gather the figures, the Guardian sent a Freedom of Information Act request to UK fire services requesting data on the number of wildfires they had recorded in the past five years (2018-22) and requesting details of new equipment they had bought because of the rising wildfire risk.

Based on responses from 35 of the UK’s 52 fire services in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, it was found that the number of recorded wildfires had been high for the past five years, but surged during dry conditions in 2022, reaching 23,699 incidents in 2022, compared with just 9,307 the year before.

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Written by

Jo Pugh

Jo Pugh is a journalist based in the Costa Blanca North. Originally from London, she has been involved in journalism and photography for 20 years. She has lived in Spain for 12 years, and is a dedicated and passionate writer.