The moan of the forest
Theirs is the extinction of the most devastating fires that occur anywhere in Spain. It is the muscle, but above all the brain that mobilizes and protects two fire brigades. In Spain, the salary of a firefighter varies according to the region from the minimum wage to double. He has been active as a forest firefighter for 20 years, and his reflections are profound; In his book Brother Fire (Pepitas) he makes us experience the fires in the first person and bets on solutions such as land management through extensive livestock to save the forests and the urgent active awareness against climate change. He has learned to listen to the moan of the forest… “And I hope to end my days in a haven of peace, aging peacefully, clearing the paths with my scissors and connecting with nature; Everything is going too fast now.”
Take me with you.
Get in the helicopter. He led a brigade at the BRIF helicopter base in Daroca, in Aragón, two crews, we are 17.
And where do we go?
To the most devastating fires that occur anywhere in Spain. We will go around to study the fire and choose where to land, where to start.
Is fire a beast?
When you start as a young man you see yourself in the confrontation of beast and hero, but then you think and realize that fire has always been an invaluable tool.
But fires are scary.
Firefighters are a chess pawn, the patch of summer. The problem is more structural.
What is the problem?
We have abandoned the rural territory; the forest mass, which is what burns the forest, has multiplied. If before our grandparents or the Australian aborigines used controlled burning, now nobody does it, and that will end up burning.
Land management has changed.
There is a lack of management. We have gone from one extreme to the other. Our great-grandparents and grandparents deforested the forests to plant wheat and forage, leading to desertification in some areas.
Not everything was so bucolic.
No, but now we have abandoned everything, we are at the other extreme.
The other problem is climate change.
Yes, we have broken the balance of the planet and we are going to pay for it, this is only the beginning, the fires are going to be more and more severe and extreme. In the end, we only know how to take care of what we love.
The whole world burns year after year.
Extensive forest areas: Chile, the Amazon, Canada, the North American West, Siberia…, where there is a large forest mass, it burns like never before, and it affects everyone, the planet is one.
A name has even been created to describe these violent fires.
Mega fires or sixth generation fires. Firefighters put out many fires, but deep down the real problem is not solved. And we have created it. We have upset the balance of the planet.
Is the fire alive?
We talk about him as if he were intelligent, we try to anticipate his behavior, but he always surprises us.
The hardest thing you have experienced?
The accident in Horta de Sant Joan (2009). Five firefighters were burned to death. We were working together with the fire in the phase of liquidation, but suddenly it reproduced in the lower part of the mountain and went up sweeping everything.
You saved the life of your squad.
I decided that we were leaving that area, and the Lleida team considered that things were not going to get complicated and they stayed.
This summer has been tough.
The area has skyrocketed, nearly 300,000 hectares burned.
How can we urbanites contribute?
Putting the focus on local consumption helps to manage the landscape. Better to consume extensive lamb raised in the Catalan mountains than Argentine cow raised with soybeans from the deforested Amazon.
You have to read the labels.
But how many funds are dedicated to supporting these local and extensive livestock projects and how many to macro-farms?
I see that fire is also political.
On my down days I think if I really wanted to solve wildfires, I’d probably be more useful as a pastor than a firefighter.
Are you serious?
Yes. You have to invest more in extensive livestock than in forest firefighters and seaplanes that cost crazy. It is the animals that eat the fuel: the trees do not burn if the bush does not burn first.
You clean trails in your spare time.
I can’t help but think that I’m helping to manage the danger a little bit.
Tell me your reflections.
I work in a base with 50 people and that has made me much more tolerant with the ideology of each one, being able to take out the good that each one has to add.
The ignorance. Climate change does not consist of spending a little more heat in summer; the weather and agricultural cycles are going to become very complex and will bring famines, fights over natural resources, climate refugees… We are going to see all of this in the next twenty years.
You call fire brother.
His violence is nothing other than the reflection of our own mistakes, of our own violence. One more notice of our wrong decisions.