Ninety percent of Uruguay is classified as grasslands (Baptista 1998). Fire is used to improve forage for cattle. Fires do escape control and move into other lands, protected-forested areas, or into plantations. Due to the vastness of the grasslands, Uruguay does not have a serious forest fire problem.
The first forestry Law was passed in 1968 and the second one passed in 1987. The laws attempted to discourage the cutting of indigenous forest species and encouraged the creation of artificial forests. Today there are approximately 310,000 hectares of plantations. Fire problems began to rise as the number and expanse of plantations increased. When the programme started and plantations were isolated, the fires were manageable. As the plantations aged and increased plantings placed more plantations adjacent to one another, the fire problem became more serious.
Fire suppression is the responsibility of the Director of National Firefighters. There are approximately 1,500 firefighters. These firefighters are divided into fire brigades. Initial attack is primarily done by the industrial forest land owners in the plantation areas. When the situation is severe, the Public Works Department and the Defense Ministry become involved. There are no aerial resources for suppression. Aerial detection is employed.