The fire of Sgouna fully under control A look back at an epic intervention

Five days after its outbreak, the fire that broke out in the Sgouna forest (Chefchaouen province) was fully contained, thanks to the proactive and coordinated work of the intervention teams on the ground, but also in the air. , thanks to the remarkable action of Canadair aircraft. At the cutting edge of technology, this type of device, of which Morocco is one of the rare countries to possess specimens, constitutes a vector of new generations equipped with intrinsic equipment which makes it an efficient means against fires. The Sgouna fire was an opportunity for these devices to demonstrate once again all their performance and efficiency. The fire, which broke out in this forest located between the municipalities of Tanakoub and Derdara, had already been under control since last Wednesday, but the intervention teams, far from lowering their guard, remained on the scene to face a possible turnaround. It is clear, in this scorching weather, exacerbated by climate change, vigilance remains in order. A fortiori, when we know the extent of the damage caused by the recent fires in certain countries of the Mediterranean rim (France, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Algeria …) Vigilance is essential all the more as the burnt area in the Sgouna forest is estimated at around “1,100 hectares, of which 60% are secondary species”, according to the head of the National Center for Forest Climate Risk Management, Fouad Assali. In many respects, the damage could have been much heavier in view of the steep nature of the relief, punctuated by ravines and valleys which complicate the access of the teams to the ground instead of the fire. No less than 520 elements were mobilized on site to overcome the flames and contain their relentless spread, favored in particular by the force of the winds, the dry bush and the resin of certain species of trees and shrubs (maritime pine, cork oak , laurel, etc.). Constantly on the lookout, these valiant firefighters were engaged day and night in an operation involving in a rare collective impetus a host of stakeholders, ranging from water and forests to local authorities, including Civil Protection, the Auxiliary Forces, the Royal Armed Forces, the Royal Gendarmerie, the Department of Meteorology and ONDA. But how do you get all these beautiful people to play the same score very quickly in the face of the rapid and inexorable advance of the fire? For Colonel Rachid Ghennioui, Fire Fighting Squadron Commander (ELAF), there is no secret for a country like Morocco, strong and proud of its flora and fauna, and very much on the its natural resources, and particularly its forest heritage. “Morocco has a national plan for the protection and fight against forest fires which precisely defines the role of each stakeholder and the measures to be taken,” he told MAP, during a meeting with the press at Ibn Battouta airport in Tangier the day after the Sgouna fire was brought under control. The fires being distributed according to their severity on a scale of 1 to 4, the Royal Air Force (FRA) intervenes at level two, with the rapid mobilization of planes towards the disaster areas, following an approach articulated around three pillars: the speed of execution, close coordination with all stakeholders and the proven competence of the airmen. If the technical teams ensure the preparation, maintenance and control of planes on the ground to be ready for take-off, the pilots are on the alert throughout the fire season, he said, emphasizing the foresight of the policy of dams spread over the whole of the national territory which allow the rapid supply of water to Canadair planes. He stressed that the coordination of interventions, fruitful cooperation and fluid communication constitute the basis of the action plan on the ground, fundamentally oriented towards the protection of goods and people, and the preservation of forest heritage and ecological diversity. from the country. Mr. Ghennioui praised the competence and technical expertise of the elements of the FRA in the field of firefighting, assets that they have particularly sharpened over the past ten years, through their multiple interventions so much. in Morocco (forest fires in the north as in the oases in the south of the Kingdom,) than abroad, especially in Spain, Italy and Portugal. On this expertise precisely, Lieutenant-Colonel Rachid Alilou, pilot and instructor on a CL-415 bomber plane, recalled that Canadair planes are on permanent alert, while the pilots and technicians are mobilized within 30 minutes. “We work in groups by patrol of two to four planes depending on the intensity of the fire and the configuration of the terrain,” he explained. As soon as the last Derdara fire broke out, he recalled, the FRA mobilized four Canadairs, the initial priority being to protect the human lives and property of the populations and to stop the progression of the fire towards the areas. inhabited. “For five days, we participated effectively in containing, then extinguishing, this fire, by carrying out 310 drops, that is to say 1860 tons of water”, he indicated, congratulating himself that the operation took place “thanks to the combined efforts of the crews and the various ground teams without the slightest human loss “. “For the 2021 season, we have already intervened in 15 fires in different regions of the Kingdom and carried out 600 water drops, thus limiting the burnt surfaces,” he observed. On the technical peculiarities of these Canadairs precisely, Hdidou Iqbal, pilot on the CL-415 aircraft, pointed out that its powerful engine and its particular aerodynamics allow it to maneuver with ease at very low altitude and at optimal speeds for drops. In this sense, he highlighted the “amphibious nature of the aircraft” and its ability to fill its water tanks of more than 6100 liters in less than 12 seconds on a water surface of 2000 meters in length. and 100 meters wide and with a depth of two meters. “These characteristics, which bring a considerable gain in operational efficiency, make it possible to reach distant fire zones and difficult to access,” he said. On the tarmac, a military source confirmed to MAP the acquisition by Morocco “on the high instructions of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, may God assist Him, Supreme Chief and Chief of the General Staff of the Royal Armed Forces (FAR) “of three new Canadairs which will come to supplement the national plan of fight against fire. This is obviously another magnanimous gesture which comes in the wake of the proactive and eminently visionary initiatives of His Majesty the King, who never cease to recall the imperative need to maintain the delicate balance between requirements of sustainable development and preservation of the Kingdom’s forest heritage. In the meantime, the captains and co-pilots of four Canadairs engaged, under the gaze of photographers and cameras, on a reconnaissance flight; time to restore some of the pressure that has long weighed on an area threatened by fires 25 minutes’ flight away … in the East.