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Fighting wildfires the 21st century way

In the port city of Vigo, Fabian and Yldau got to meet some real life action heroes, and the brains in the lab trying to equip them with even better weapons.

Firefighters everywhere do an incredibly important job in hugely challenging conditions, often at risk to their own lives. One of the worst threats they face are rapidly spreading wildfires, like the ones that ravaged Spain and Portugal recently.

Between 13 and 18 October 2017, hundreds of fires swept through densely forested areas in north-western and northern parts of the two countries and even reached the outskirts of Vigo, where desperate residents formed human chains to pass water buckets. Altogether some 50 people died and more than 50,000 hectares of land were destroyed.

The weather conditions in October 2017 were hot and dry, and strong winds from a hurricane fanned the flames: they created an almost impossible task for firefighters. In fact, it is becoming increasingly common for wildfires to reach such proportions that they simply cannot be fought with regular extinction equipment, and only the arrival of rain can save the day.

This is a very scary prospect, so the focus needs to be on preventing the fires in the first place or on trying to put them out with rapid and effective action as soon as possible after they’ve started. And as fires have scant regard for borders, well trained teams from both countries acting together in close cooperation are essential for success.

With the project FireRS (wildFIRE Remote Sensing) the EU is helping Spain and Portugal achieve exactly that. FireRS is developing  an innovative toolkit for detecting, monitoring – and ultimately putting out – forest fires.

FireRS uses new technologies to transmit images of fires together with information on their location and status, and to create predictions concerning their evolution. The system comprises a set of fixed ground sensors deployed in risk zones, a fleet of autonomous drones and the Nanosatellite LUME-1  – as presented by project manager Franco and delicately handled by Yldau in our travellers’ video.

Let’s hope it will be functional soon enough for when the next hurricane hits the region at the wrong time!


Find out more about the FireRS project on their website:  



The University of Vigo, one of the partners of FireRS, was quick off the mark to report the visit of our travellers on their website (in Spanish, of course):


See also

Kenneth's final vlog

Kenneth’s final thoughts about his experience with the Road Trip Project along the Danube Route.