Unusual Record: UK burnt area largest in Europe – so far

Thanks to the careful observation of colleagues at Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro (UTAD) we are able to report an unusual “record”: As of 11 June 2018, the largest burnt forest area in this year so far in Europe can be found in the United Kingdom. We are looking at 8049 ha of burnt area  that is more than the combined burnt area of Spain, Portugal, France and Italy together.

This includes two large fires in Scotland earlier this year with 1920 ha and 1378 ha respectively:

Scotland_1Scotland_2

The source of this information is the European Forest Fire Information System EFFIS, which means the actual area affected by fire is likely even larger, as EFFIS is not capturing the smaller fires:Scotland_38000 ha of burnt area in the UK is indeed unusual and the fire warnings that were issued by the Scottish Wildfire Forum or the Irish Forest Service (two organizations I am working with) were indeed very accurate and “spot on”.

This does of course not mean that 8000 ha for more fire prone countries are a “record”. Especially when thinking of the 580 000 ha of burnt forest land in Portugal last year. But for the UK, this is indeed surprising.

However, from my perspective we need to take into account that prescribed burning for land management purposes is well established in the UK and especially Scotland. A big part of the above mentioned 8049 ha can surely be accounted for the controlled use of fire (except the two big wildfires I mentioned at the beginning of the article).

That is leading us to the “real” record in a positive sense. UK is surely one of the very few countries in Europe that use fire as a tool for the benefit of the landscape. Again, they are using prescribed burning maybe more than Spain, Portugal and Italy together.

To conclude on that, I would like to ask EFFIS to qualify the data in the sense to at least try to differentiate between “good” and “bad” fires in the statistics.

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