The framework bill on forest fires (Law n. 353 of 2000) was born from the conviction that the most appropriate approach to ensure protection of the forestry heritage would be to promote and encourage the activities of prediction and prevention, instead of giving priority to emergencies connected with extinguishing fires.
The scope of the innovations introduced by the law is therefore to reduce the cause of the fires breaking out, by implementing prediction systems to identify and study the characteristics of the hazard as well as preventive actions to create organically controlled operations and actions aimed at reducing the consequences of fires.
The framework bill on forest fires assigns the Regions and town councils with the duty of predicting, planning and programming fire fighting actions and operations, whilst the State is responsible for guiding, coordinating and monitoring said activities. In particular, through COAU - Centro Operativo Aereo Unificato (Joint Aircraft Operations Centre), the Civil Protection Department is responsible for coordinating the fleet of fire fighting aircraft belonging to the state and put at disposal by the State Forestry Corps, Air Force and Army, Fire Brigade and Navy.
The Department promotes the fire fighting fleet operations as well as the service of predicting the forest fire hazard conditions through the network of operations centres regarded as the nerve centre, also for fire fighting operations, for this prediction service.
The Regions are principally responsible for activating operations rooms to coordinate the various organizations engaged in fire fighting and also the civil protection operations, where required. The Regions are also responsible for activating regional prediction, prevention and operational plans updated every year and prepared on a provincial basis, creating the so-called Risk Chart. Specific arrangements and agreements with the State Forestry Corps and National Fire Brigade Corps are established on a local basis in the plans, as well as with the network of volunteers.
Prevention activities involve measures to help reduce the causes and the potential of fire ignition and interventions to mitigate the damage caused. For this purpose, all systems and devices for monitoring and surveillance of risk areas in general and technology to monitor the area are used.
The activities carry out:
- actions allocated to the forest, with interventions of proper management of available resources, specific expertise of the Regions;
- actions addressed to human beings, with training and information to prevent wrong actions and to promote knowledge of the risk and the adoption of rules of correct behavior.
Preventive actions for the forest. Effective firefighting is not possible without proper planning of land management such as:
- sustainable use of resources;
- regulation of tourism;
- maintenance of facilities and infrastructures
To reduce the potential of fire ignition specific interventions in the forestry and the maintenance and cleaning of the forest are also needed: the reduction of biomass fuel, in particular the removal of deadwood, obtaining mixed forest stands and well structured. Where possible, the copses are converted to high forest: changing the form of government of a forest, i.e. the the form of renewal, governed by a forest coppice, ruled in a forest with high trunk.
Other interventions may include the installation of fire resistant species for reduced flammability and combustibility, or actions against the plot (thinning, delimitation of areas with firebreaks ...), of the undergrowth (thinning and removal of shrubs) and herbaceous layer (scrub clearance and cleaning of embankments and roadsides and railways).
Preventive action for people. The human factor is crucial for prevention: the highest percentage of fires in fact is due to improper behavior of man, both voluntary and involuntary.
The action aimed at prevention can be implemented through:
- control of the territory through a constant monitoring of the action itself and the various human activities, both productive and recreational;
- the activity of diverse information and awareness on the type of user. Communication campaigns are essential to sensitize and educate citizens to the problem of forest fires and the protection of the forest and to raise awareness of the prohibitions, limitations, and to observe the rules of good behavior in the woods and take measures of self protection taken in the event of fire. Special attention should be given to information in schools, organizing meetings between students and professionals.
As required by the law on forest fires, regions have the task to carry out - according to the guidelines set forth by Ministerial Decree of 20 December 2001 - plans of regional forecast, prevention and forest fires fight. Plans are for three years and are updated annually. The primary objective of the regional plans is to reduce the wooded areas covered by fire.