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Fire brigade services in natural environment double in seven years

More people engaging in outdoor activities “unprepared”  or lacking “suitable training” says head of special rescue service

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19 December 2017 06:58 PM

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ACN | La Molina

There’s more to being a firefighter in Catalonia than saving people from burning buildings, or rescuing cats from trees. One particular part of the fire brigade, GRAE dedicates itself to carrying out rescue services in the harder to reach parts of the country, such as the high mountains. In fact, its services in hard-to-reach natural environments has doubled over the last seven years.

This increase is explained by the increase in people who practice different types of activities in nature that, according to the head of the unit of GRAE of the Firemen, Guillem Amorós, would be around one million Catalans, many of which, in some cases "do not have the preparation or the suitable training" to go out into the wild.

Avalanche warning

GRAE is the part of the Catalan fire service that carries out rescues in harder to reach areas, such as the mountains. On Tuesday, firefighters practiced carrying out avalanche rescue services in the ski resort of La Molina. One such activity they engaged in was the operation of the Avalanche Victims Detector, a device that emits radio signals to reveal the location of somebody buried beneath the snow.

Firefighters using avalanche victim detection equipment

Amorós has recommended that before carrying out an activity in nature, it is important to have it well planned, know the weather forecast, and have the proper technical skills and physical preparation. For the next Christmas holidays and during the winter in general, he advised people to check the online bulletin warning of avalanche risks, and to keep in mind that in the cold, phone batteries die much quicker. Wrapping up warm and bringing something hot to drink is also important, he said.

The head of the Emergency Medical Group of the firefighters, Miquel Vida, highlighted the problem of hypothermia, especially in regions such as the Pyrenees. Another thing firefighters working in the mountains have to be prepared for are people who have suffered fractures or lesions due to falling snow. He stressed that if hikers find themselves lost, the best thing to do is keep on moving, even if it means going in circles, as metabolic activity keeps hypothermia at bay.

Units of GRAE carry out these exercises once a year, before the start of the hardest stretch of the snow campaign. In addition, specific manoeuvres are also practiced. 

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  • Firefighters getting ready to train for avalanche rescue (by ACN)

  • Firefighters getting ready to train for avalanche rescue (by ACN)