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The town of Ribarroja on 4 August 2015. Wikipedia Commons. Author:19Tarrestnom65
30 Aug 2022

Two spanish towns near Valencia install giant sprinklers for urban protection against wildfires

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 Guardian water sprinkler tower. COURTESY OF GRAHAM KEELEY
 Guardian water sprinkler tower.COURTESY OF GRAHAM KEELEY

In the wake of the heatwaves and intense forest fires in southern Europe, two towns near Valencia in Spain have developed  giant sprinkler systems to help protect the urban areas from the radiant heat of future forest fires.

According to an article in Wired magazine, these are the largest defense systems against wildfires in Europe at the moment. The so called Guardian towers are 24 meters / 79 feet tall, and they are now in operation in each of the two towns of Ribarroja and Paterna in the Valencia region of Spain. 

Both towns have, according to the article, installed 40 of these towers surrounding their town centers. 

The giant water towers will act as sprinklers, taking some of the heat and energy from a nearby wildfire, with the intent of preventing ignition of town buildings. The towers will also hydrate nearby vegetation so that trees and shrubs will be more fire resistant.  

“Water eats up some of the energy of a fire.... and If a plant is better hydrated, then it will slow down the fire.” says Ferrán Dalmau, CEO of forest fire consultancy Medi XXI GSA, the company who developed the Guardian system.

However Dalmau also warns that the system will not put a fire out. The "Guardian" can slow down and help control a fire, but it doesn’t replace the need for conventional fire services to intervene.

According to the article on Wired Magazine, the town of Ribarroja has not used the Guardian system yet in an active wildfire.  However, this isn’t the first urban area where the system has been installed.

The Guardian started as a pilot project in 2006 in Carcaixent, another town near Valencia, and 10 years later it was - allegedly - successfully put to the test when a fire threatened to destroy the town.

The "Guardian" can slow down and help control a fire, but it doesn’t replace the need for conventional fire services to intervene.