“Fires in Britain will be different to those in Spain, mainly fast moving grass or heather fires which can become what we call ‘interface’ fires affecting suburban areas,” said Mr Eley, noting that many UK gardens include pines and other highly flammable coniferous species.
“The UK will need to be smarter about land management, creating more resilient landscapes, thinning forests, clearing debris and using prescribed burning to create a mosaic of natural firebreaks.”
Mr Eley, who leads his seven-man crews into the fight against forest fires from their base at Logrono airport in northern Spain, said: ‘In the helicopter we first come to fires. As we approach, I analyze the situation, look for our vanishing points and how we are going to attack.
He argued that Spain also needed to rethink its approach. Almost all of his team only works during the summer months, but firefighters and some politicians are beginning to demand that Spanish fire brigades be maintained year-round to work on deforestation and prevention.
Wildfires are worsening due to climate change and the abandonment of traditional forest land use, which has led to the mountainsides being covered with thick brush and fallen trees – a perfect fuel for forests. flames.
“We’re actually too good at putting out fires because we’re preventing all that brush from getting burned as it should be,” he said. We are totally ineffective at preventing fires and disposing of fuel,” he said.
Mr Eley studied to become a forest engineer but decided to volunteer as a firefighter while on exchange in New Zealand.
Meeting the one who is now his wife and the mother of their two teenage children brought him to Spain in 2002, and he soon started working in helicopter fire crews.
“I was hooked,” he said. “I struggled with the heat and the flight, but suffering is part of the job. I like suffering.”