The Balearic forest fire fighting team is ready for action and this year will have the support of a new helicopter which will be the heart of a rapid reaction fire fighting team. The annual fire fighting campaign was unveiled yesterday by the Balearic Minister for Environment, Margalida Rossello. The budget for this year's operation is 4.5 million euros, nine per cent more than last year and has been used, not only to bring in the helicopter, but also set up four new summer forest fire fighting brigades and the creation of a new web site. The forest fire campaign is actually enforced throughout the year, but is greatly stepped up in the summer. The Minister presented the new campaign and its objectives yesterday at Son Bonet air field and Balearic President Francesc Antich also attended to see the new chopper and the other airborne fire fighting units, such as the spotter plane introduced three years ago. This summer, the helicopter will play an important role in ferrying fire fighters in to the heart of forest fires as quickly as possible. Fire fighters will also have the use of two new four-wheel-drive pick up trucks. One will be deployed to the island of Formentera and the other based in the area of Escorca in Majorca. The forest fire service will also have a new fire chief based in Minorca and a second helicopter will be based as usual in Betlem to control the north east of the island and be able to assist when needed in Minorca. The slogan for this year's campaign is “Enjoy the forest. Prevent fires.” The Department for Biodiversity is also involved this year and has invested 144.000 euros in producing information leaflets and mounting a press campaign to alert the public to the dangers and how to behave in the forests. For the first time, the campaign will be primarily aimed at those in direct contact with the forests such as hikers, farmers, residents living in wooded areas and even yachtsmen. The latter so that they know how to help airborne fire fighters in case of an emergency. The information is also available on the web site www.evitaelfoc.caib.es. The web site will also provide the media with real time coverage of all forest fires. Again the emphasis of the campaign is on prevention, control and extinguishment. Over the past few years, a great deal of money has been invested in increasing the number of watch towers in key areas and last year the creation of a map marking all the region's forest fire hot spots. Rossello said that 90 per cent of the trees brought down in the November storms, potential forest fire hazards, have now been cleared and those remaining on the ground have still not dried out, so there is time to remove them all.

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