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"HELP! Our forests are burning!" – "But what kind of help do you need?"

The heatwave across central and northern Europe is preparing the ground for a severe wildfire season. Normally mostly green vegetation is turning into “fuel” in countries normally not affected by serious fire problems. Hereby I am referring to countries not prepared for a wildfire season (compared to the Mediterranean areas, who are dealing with frequent forest fires), despite the climate change scenarios and increasing risks and disturbance predictions.
We have reported here on this blog about the fire situation and early warning systems in the UK, Ireland, and Germany already. Now Scandinavia is receiving a lot of media attention. Sweden for instance is calling for international assistance:
Wildfires rage in Arctic Circle as Sweden calls for help. Sweden worst hit as hot, dry summer sparks unusual number of fires, with at least 11 in the far north” (source: The Guardian) or
“Swedish firefighters were still battling 49 different wildfires across the country on Thursday afternoon, and in some areas residents have been asked to leave for their own safety. Here’s where evacuations take place.” (source: The Local)
As we can see from this and most other media articles, reports focus on the weather, the heat and fires and smoke and on helicopters as well as water-bombing aircraft. And that is what you need in a out-of-control fire situation: Hit the fire fast and hard. And for that you need resources like planes, absolutely. However, what I do miss in most news articles is that the crisis management cycle has more phases than just the response. Is that single-focused reporting maybe a reason for political ignorance of urgent needs for prevention and mitigation?

The SENDAI Framework for Disaster Risk Reductions coordinated by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction is very clearly emphasizing the importance of Prevention and Mitigation. So we from the European Forest Risk Facility are not alone in raising our voice for more prevention and mitigation through better land and forest management, which will increase the resilience of our landscapes and forests. Thus, the European Forest Risk Facility is calling for Resilient Landscapes – Adapted Communities – Adequate Response with the motto collect-connect-exchange.
During this fire Season for instance, the European Forest Risk Facility and its “Wildfire Node and Network” are providing regular support to the UK, Ireland and Norway. On a daily basis we are exchanging information on fire weather and the synoptic situation, on fire strategies and tactics, satellite scenes, interpretation of European Forest Fire Information System “EFFIS ” information as well as operational advice. This support is working between trustful contacts due to previous Exchanges of Experts, mutual training and on-the-job training.

We still need to improve our impact on the policy level though to receive more attention on preventive fire-, land- and forest- management.
For further reading, I suggest the following links:
EFI video on how bioeconomy can help to prevent forest fires
Pau Costa Foundation and network
Comments on European Fire Management
This video shows the prescribed grazing project.



  1. Gary Morgan AM AFSM
    Gary Morgan AM AFSM July 23, 2018

    Alex, I agree for the need to change the way we view wildland fires. It is mainly the intentional ignorance of politicians that has led to the costly response focus. Land mangers well know the need to mange the landscape, taking into account the forces of nature which includes wildland fire. Many politicians have had sound briefings on how the whole fire risk cycle should be addressed. Yet we continue to see their focus on the aspects which the politicians can convey to the public in a sound byte e.g. standing in front of new equipment for fire response. Unfortunately, the increased costs borne by the tax payers is not publicly conveyed by the general media.
    Thanks for attempting to enlighten a wider audience on wildland fire management.

  2. Gesche Schifferdecker
    Gesche Schifferdecker July 24, 2018

    Thanks for this feedback and comment, Gary. We in the European Forest Risk Facility are working on the enlightenment of a wider audience, but it is a tough cookie (also because of media mechanisms). I recently heard about 2 communities in the US (Santa Fe, New Mexico and Denver, Colorado) that actively decided to increase their taxes to invest in fire prevention (by fuel reduction)… So there is some change, but we still have to do a lot more to raise public’s awareness.

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