Neither safe nor effective to deploy copters in forest fire fight

By Duc Hung, Ba Do   July 1, 2019 | 06:34 am PT
Neither safe nor effective to deploy copters in forest fire fight
A forest fire in Thua Thien-Hue Province, central Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Vo Thanh.
It's neither safe nor effective to deploy helicopters to extinguish forest fires in central Vietnam, says Deputy PM Vuong Dinh Hue.

Strong winds prevented the deployment of copters to fight forest fires thousands of firefighters, forest rangers, and soldiers battled over the past days. The fight has so far claimed the life of one firefighter.

On Friday, four forest fires broke out in the communes of Huong Tra and Huong Thuy in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue, spreading across over 100 hectares (247 acres) of pine and acacia trees. They were extinguished by Saturday morning.

A series of forest fires were also reported on Friday in many central localities, from Da Nang City to Ha Tinh Province. While other localities have extinguished them, Ha Tinh is still struggling.

On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue inspected the scene with the leaders of Ha Tinh Province. He said the government has not mobilized firefighting helicopters because the strong Foehn wind in the province, which is particularly dry, hot and descends along the leeside of a mountain range, would impact the direction of the water hosed down from the helicopters and also impact aviation security.

What makes the task particularly challenging, Hue said, is that at least 3-5 helicopters were needed to rain water down on just one point, while the range of the fires was wide, extending beyond Ha Tinh.

"With such widespread fires, mobilizing local forces and extinguishing fire with blowers and petroline chain saws (which have built-in fans that create blows) are more effective," the deputy PM said.

A leader of the Firefighting Department of the Ministry of Public Security, said that with a large and prolonged forest fire like the one in Ha Tinh, traditional methods like water hose, using blowers, removing leaves and plants were optimal methods.

"Modern firefighting methods like firefighting helicopters are not effective, because aircraft can only carry a few amount of water or extinguishing powder and can only cover small areas," he said.

Deputy PM Hue also reminded the provincial heads that they should be vigilant and calculate the need for fire protection devices and report to the government for budgeting, considering July is a hot month.

As of 5:30 am on Monday, all fire points in Ha Tinh had been put out thanks to the collective efforts of 15,000 people. However, there were mild fires later on at some districts due to the strong Feohn wind which were all extinguished by early afternoon. But the risks of fires occuring any time in Ha Tinh remain.

The National Centre for Hydro-Meteorological Weather Forecast said that a tropical depression will cause heavy rains in the central region from Tuesday, and this could help completely stop the forest fires.

However, this also means that the region could be beset by other natural disasters like flooding and turbulent seas, it added.

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