Firefighting in the Alps guarantees safety and sustainable protection of the environment, Switzerland

The effects of global warming can be seen in the climate and environment in many different ways. Due to increasing drought, there is an elevated risk of forest fires in the Swiss Alps. AFRY provides support in the planning and implementation of preventive environmental measures.

In recent years, the Engadine - an approximately 80 km long high valley in the Swiss Alps - has experienced severe drought combined with an acute danger of forest fires. It can be assumed that this will increasingly be the case in the future due to climate change and that the forests, vital for the protection of natural hazards for the whole region, will be severely endangered.

The Office of Forests and Natural Hazards has therefore commissioned AFRY to plan a permanent water retainment basin for fire-fighting purposes just below Alp Languard at 2295 m above sea level. The basin is also suitable for withdrawing large quantities of water directly by fire-fighting helicopter. This should allow a withdrawal volume of 150 m3 in acute cases and a continuous withdrawal volume of 250 m3 for continuous operation. The equipment must meet a variety of requirements:

The flow regime of the mountain streams should remain undisturbed
To guarantee this, the dimensioning of the basin must be adapted with regard to inflow and withdrawal as well as to the water bag of the helicopter (800 l).

The facility should be available all year long
The requirement for the facility is year-round use. Thus, frost resistance must be guaranteed even at a location of 2295 m above sea level. In addition, the basin must not be filled with snow, as this would make it impossible to extract water.

Guarantee safety
The location of the retention basin for fire-fighting water must be in the approach and departure corridor of the helicopters to ensure a safe regime of use. The basin is secured both in terms of installation and the environment of external effects (snow load, avalanches, rotor winds).

Sustainable protection of the environment
Important implementation components are the landscape-compatible integration of the retention basin into the high alpine region and the minimisation of the environmental impact.

AFRY developed the basic plant and operational concept, the plant design and layout. AFRY is currently responsible for the detailed planning and construction. We are proud to contribute AFRY's expertise in sustainable and environmentally sound solutions.