First Aerial Ignited Prescribed Fire in Europe

Note: The articles on this blog make no claim to completeness and do not necessarily represent the opinion of the European Forest Institute.


May 2018

I am happy to share some great news with you.  For the first time in Europe, a prescribed burn was implemented using Aerial Ignition with the Raindance R3 Aerial Incendiary device (Aerial Ignition has been used in Australia since the 70’s, but for Europe this was the first time). We are indeed proud that we played a vital role in facilitating this burn, bringing the right people and the right environment together. A real “research-to-practice” and “collect-connect-exchange” (the motto of the European Forest Risk Facility) for risk reduction and mitigation of the impacts of unwanted fires. I truly hope it is influencing a little bit the fire policy making.

Prescribed Burning is the careful and planned application of mild, low-intensity fire to reduce available fine fuel / fuel loads (i.e. burnable vegetation) in a safe way to reduce the negative impacts of unwanted fires and their severity. Prescribed Fire does not avoid wildfires, but it does make them less intense and safer to control. It helps to avoid disaster fires.

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Point Ignitions from helicopter in a conifer forest, Färnebofjärden, Sweden

The challenge with the controlled use of fire is that only very few days in a year have the ideal burning conditions in terms of weather, vegetation condition, soil moisture, available burning teams, etc. And the areas that would need the use of preventive management are huge (be it with prescribed fire or any other type of risk mitigation land management) . Sometimes they have difficult access too. Using aerial ignition allows for the safe application of fire on large areas in a short window of opportunity.

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The “R3” Incendiary device in action. It uses capsules that ignite with a 40 seconds time delay.
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The Result, exactly as desired. Low intensity surface fire. Fine fuels removed, no damage

Despite the fact that vast areas of Europe would need preventive land and fire management to avoid the negative impacts of unwanted wildfires (from the highlands in Scotland, the hills in Ireland and Wales to the vast tracks of fire prone land in Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, and Croatia) the tool of “friendly fire” is not as widely used as it should be (note: not only the author’s opinion, but supported by a wide expert network). Excuses, not to treat large areas of land in a preventive way, are manifold: the weather, the crews, the fuel moisture, the terrain, the access…

If you cannot manage the vast areas of land by grazing, mowing, flailing….now, with aerial ignition we can treat large areas of land safely and quickly. Don´t get me wrong, I like grazing – producing steaks through fire prevention is very appealing. However, I do not see enough animals out there. For the first time in Europe we could now observe a aerial ignition burn in Sweden using the “R3 Incendiary Device”. This time it was for nature conservation (with Gävleborg  County Administrative Board) and to stimulate biodiversity. It was clearly demonstrated that this technique is tried, tested and safe to apply. 

The Incendiary Machine, with its operator, is now travelling on to Catalunya and Portugal. Feel free to contact me, if you are interested in trying aerial ignition in your part of Europe.

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A more detailed report and video on the actual operation will soon be posted on the RiskPlatform.

 

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