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Forest fires worsens year by year: what is the status in Europe?

On October 2021, the Joint Research Centre published the 21st edition of its annual report on forest fires in Europe, Middle East and North Africa related to the year 2020. According to this report, in 2020 the fire season burned about 340,000 hectares in Europe and approximately 40% of total burnt area belongs to the Natura 2000 protected areas. The most affected country by fires have been Romania (73, 444 ha burnt area), followed by more southern European countries, in particular Portugal, Spain and Italy. (Compare with the 20th edition of the JRC’s report).

Yet, the report shows that fire risk is not an issue limited to a specific region of Europe. Indeed, in 2020, a total of 20 EU Member States were affected by forest fires over 30 hectares and forest fires are becoming a growing concern also for countries in central and northern Europe, not historically affected by this threat.

Climate change reinforced the risk and magnitude of fires in Europe, states the report. Overall, the number of forest fires went up in 19 out of the 30 countries analysed in 2020 with respect to year 2019. Still, the report also warns that more than 9 out of 10 fires are induced by human activities and hence more awareness raising and educational campaign for fire prevention would be needed.


What shall be expect for the report on fire events for the year 2021?

Only by summer 2021, half a million of hectares went under fires in Europe. Thus, the number of burnt surface will be certainly higher than in 2019 and 2020. To respond to this alarming threat, the European Union is currently reinforcing its capacity to assist countries impacted by fires, as well as to strengthen fire prevention and recovery. For instance, the European Union has been addressing forest fires in its recently adopted the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, and the proposed the EU Forest Strategy for 2030.

An integrated fire management strategy is needed to respond to forest fires in Europe, encompassing prevention, early detection and response, restoration and adaptation. In the 2021-2025 period, Euromontana will be partner of the H2020-funded FIRE-RES project, whose aim is to set the basis for a pan-European integrated approach to fire management and to develop innovations to deal with extreme wildfire events. Counting on a wide partnership of 35 learning organisations in this thematic, FIRE-RES will develop 11 Living Labs across different European regions and beyond. The project officially starts on 1st December 2021 and more information will be soon available about this new project.

To know more, read our presentation of FIRE-RES or contact carla.lostrangio@euromontana.org.

1 December 2021

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