São Paulo, May 2020 – Prevention is the best action when it comes to fire hazards, especially in the dry season, which coincides with late autumn and winter in the Central-South region of the country, where BP Bunge Bioenergia’s 11 agro-industrial units are located. BP Bunge Bioenergia is one of the largest companies in Brazil, with a sugarcane crushing capacity of 32 million tons per year. That is why the company has a Fire Prevention and Firefighting Program, investing time, team commitment, and financial resources to control and eliminate fire hazards.
Among these initiatives are the acquisition and maintenance of equipment and materials; availability, qualification, regular training, and management of local brigades; promotion of internal and external prevention campaigns; and management of support systems. It is worth noting that 100% of BP Bunge Bioenergia’s sugarcane harvesting is automated and, for this reason, the company never uses fire in the management of sugarcane fields.
“We have a fire monitoring system that relies on satellite images, with real-time monitoring. We also have a project at the Pedro Afonso unit, in the state of Tocantins, where we have installed observation towers that are equipped with high-definition cameras to monitor the sugarcane fields”, notes Nadia Gama, HSSE director, BP Bunge Bioenergia.
The company has a fire brigade with hundreds of trained members that are dedicated 24/7 to the work of preventing and fighting fires in its sugarcane fields and facilities across all units. It has 108 water trucks, and the truck fleet of three units is fully equipped with automated water jets, controlled by the operator by joystick from inside the truck cabin, which avoids exposing the fire brigade member to the fire.
“Some studies indicate loss of sugar content in burnt plants, which represents a loss. A crop fire also eliminates the straw from the soil. This organic material is used for the protection and restoration of the soil, and part of the biomass is also used in the cogeneration of electricity. It is clear that the use of fire in the cultivation of sugarcane has a negative impact not only on the society, but also on the company”, says Nadia Gama.
“Unfortunately, a large number of fires is still associated with the carelessness of some people who use fire to get rid of pruning or garbage residues, throw cigarette butts on roadsides, or set fire on areas to open up clandestine paths or routes”, adds the executive.
Regarding fire prevention systems, the company has implemented programs to classify and assess risk areas. The teams take preventive actions to avoid fires by regularly clearing areas adjacent to highways, trails, firebreaks, among others.
In addition, in the agricultural area, the units have advanced fire stations with firefighters on duty, equipped with water trucks and other equipment positioned at strategic points. They remain ready for any emergency displacements, fully supported by an online navigation system that guides drivers through the best routes to reach the affected areas.
BP Bunge also promotes internal and external campaigns on the topic to raise awareness among its approximately 9,000 direct employees and 4,000 outsourced service providers, in addition to the communities where it operates. The company also works with local Fire Department stations.
All fire brigade members receive regular training and have at their disposal specific firefighting PPE (Personal Protection Equipment), such as flame-retardant overalls, protective masks, jackets, oxygen masks, among others.
How can you do your part?
- Do not burn garbage or dry leaves; dispose of waste in an appropriate place;
- Never throw cigarette butts along highways;
- Avoid lighting fires. A spark is enough to spread a fire;
- Do not launch sky lanterns. It is a crime under law 9,605/98;
- Dispose of glass and cans appropriately; their exposure to the sun or heat, in contact with dry leaves, can create a flame;
- Watch out for candles, torches, lamps, and burners;
- Check residential electrical installations to avoid short circuits.
- In case of fire in your region, call the Fire Department on the emergency number 193.