A Joint Research Centre (JRC) report shows the need for an increased prevention efforts to curb the growing risk of future wildfires.
The report provides a detailed analysis of the wildfires in 2017, including country-specific reports. The report combines data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), managed by the JRC, and the statistics and information provided by EU Member States and neighbouring countries. It shows that last year, wildfires destroyed over 1.2 million hectares
of forests and land in Europe – more than the total surface area of Cyprus. They also claimed the lives of 127 civilians and fire fighters and caused economic damage estimated at almost EUR 10 billion.
Europe faces more and more severe fires. The report shows a clear trend towards longer fire seasons compared to previous years, with fires now occurring well beyond the dry and hot summer months (July- September). In 2017, the most critical months were June and October, when deadly fires swept through Portugal and Northern Spain.
The Mediterranean region remains the most affected area. However, unusually dry summers in central and northern Europe have recently led to large fires in countries such as Sweden, Germany and Poland, which have historically seen very few. Finally, in 2017, over 25% of the total burnt area lied within the Natura2000 network, calling for increased efforts of EU countries to restore and manage protected habitats and their ecosystem services, including for the sake of forest fire prevention.
The report also states that wildfires can be prevented. In 2017, most wildfires were caused by human activity. Unsustainable forest management practices, the degradation of ecosystems, as well as the planting of very flammable forest tree species facilitate fire ignition and favour the spreading of wildfires. Prevention is thus key in tackling wildfires. Adequate forest management and land use practices can reduce fire risks and make forests more resilient to fires. In addition, the report shows that awareness raising and training of local communities, policy makers and stakeholders will increase their preparedness. Member States and the EU institutions should continue to work hand in hand in providing guidelines on
how to act in case of wildfires and how to increase our resilience, building on national experience and best practices.
What happened during the 2018 summer?
In 2018, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism was activated 5 times to respond to forest fires in Europe. Substantial support was provided to the countries in need, namely Sweden and Greece. In total, 15 planes, 6 helicopters and over 400 firefighters and crew were mobilised this summer. The European Union has funded €1.6 million in transportation costs to mobilise support to the affected countries. Furthermore, over 139 Copernicus satellite maps on forest fires were produced on the request of Member States. In addition, a prevention and preparedness mission took place in Portugal to help boost the country’s capacity to deal with forest fires.
DRIVER+ Trial 2
The DRIVER+ project is trying to find some new innovative answers to that kind of disasters. Its second Trial will be held in Valabre in the South of France. The overarching objective of Trial 2 is to improve cooperation and coordination between different organisations and agencies from different countries using solutions designed for large scale and complex multi-event crisis. More specifically, the Trial aims to demonstrate how socio-technical solutions can improve the quality of the exchanged information while supporting the Emergency Management Services (EMS) in understanding the crisis dynamics. Ensuring practitioners’ safety on a large forest fire scene is fundamental, as is obtaining an overview of the response operations in order to organise rescue efforts, without disturbing forest fire suppressions operations. It will show the need for a better coordination of the fire-fighters and the EMS rescue operation, as well as the environmental protection agency during a large forest fire with victims. It will also highlight the need to share relevant information with the crisis managers, while preventing information overload. In simple terms, a Common Operational Picture (COP).
More information on DRIVER+ Trial 2 here !