2019 Canary Islands fires

2019 Canary Islands fires

In the summer of 2019, the Canary Islands were hit by some of the worst fires they’ve experienced in recent history. In just ten days, six per cent of the Canary Islands’ UNESCO World Heritage territory was destroyed (equating to more than 10,000 hectares) with the fires spread out across three different areas of the islands.

The fires were a huge challenge for all emergency services and as the main supplier for aerial firefighting in Spain, Babcock worked night and day to douse the flames from the air. Our team’s efficient and strategic deployment of resources coupled with excellent collaboration with the ground firefighting services helped save lives and protect as much of the infrastructure and environment as possible.

We fought the fires with three of our Kamov helicopters; the most powerful firefighting helicopters in the world. We usually only have one Kamov based in South Tenerife however due to the seriousness of these fires, we brought the other two over from our other bases in Spain. These waterbombing helicopters, which we operate on behalf of the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, can drop up to 4,500 liters of water at a time. Their robust design was essential in the difficult flying circumstances of this mission where the fires were located in very inaccessible and mountainous terrain and there were very strong winds present. Tomás Azcona, Kamov pilot, commented, “The mission was very hard due to the strong winds and the difficult orography. The presence of Kamovs, flying non-stop for a few days, was vital because other aircraft could not withstand those strong gusts of wind.“