forest fire in Sweden

“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 safety. Here’s where evacuations have taken 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 the fact that the crisis management cycle has more phases than just the response. Is that single focused reporting maybe a reason for the political ignorance of urgent needs for prevention and mitigation?

Fire News from European Media

Here we would like to provide you with recent updates:

Ireland
After responding to 50 wildfires over the past two weeks, Collite urged the public not to engage in “fire tourism” as forest and gorse fires continue to rage across the country amid hot, dry conditions. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/coillte-warns-public-against-fire-tourism-1.3556266

France
The president of a protection association overseeing a natural area near Villers-lès-Nancy lamented the destruction done to birds’ nesting grounds by an 8-hectare wildfire which roared through the area several days ago. https://france3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/grand-est/meurthe-et-moselle/nancy/espace-naturel-sensible-incendie-villers-nancy-1507109.html

Wildfeuer auf kontaminierten Flächen

Hier ein Update zu einem erneuten Brand auf ehemaligem Militärgelände (Quelle: Spiegel online) und meine Kommentare dazu.

In Deutschland, vor allem im Osten, gibt es tausende Hektar aktive oder ehemalige Truppenübungsplätze. Naturschutzfachlich sind diese Flächen auf Grund der ehemaligen militärischen Störung äußerst wertvoll und zumeist auch NATURA 2000- Flächen. Leider sind die militärischen Hinterlassenschaften (UXO Unexploded Ordnace) nicht so wertvoll, sondern gefährden Umwelt, Boden, Grundwasser und im Falle von Wildfeuern auch die Einsatzkräfte.

Zwei Fragen stellen sich: Wie können wir den Offenland-Charackter dieser Natura 2000 Flächen erhalten und gleichzeitig die Sicherheit der Einsatzkräfte im Brandfall erhöhen?

Germany dried up and on fire

A very sunny June 2018 was also a very dry June! And I mean dry:
The sunshine duration in June with about 215 hours of sunshine reached 108 percent of the target of 198 hours. Persistent drought in the northeast, severe thunderstorms in the southwest:
At around 50 l / m², June reached only 57 percent of its target nationwide (85 l / m²). The month was very poor in Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt, which had already been part of the drought affected areas in May. In Wittenberg for instance, from April 27 to June 20,  only 0.9 l / m² were recorded. The drought had a catastrophic effect, because in addition to numerous wildfires, agriculture and forestry is already suffering enormous drought related damage.

Wildfires going North!

The dry weather pattern over the northern parts of Europe are more stable than we like it to be… Ireland’s Forest Service, part of the European Forest Risk Facility network, has issued a RED fire danger warning, while the UK is burning already.We are observing these conditions more often now, outside the fire prone regions of the Mediterranean. Is this a sign of things to expect under climate change scenarios?

How to implement risk management in future forestry? A conference trip to Solsona, Spain

On 6th of June 2018, EFI Bonn’s principal scientist Marcus Lindner and I, Junior researcher Laura Nikinmaa escaped tropical Germany to cool down in the Mediterranean Solsona, Spain, and to participate in the conference “COMMUNICATING RISKS IN Decision Support Systems: from basic research to advanced decision support tools” with 30 other researchers. Hosted by the Forest Science Centre of Catalonia (CTFC), the conference was organized by the SuFoRun project and IUFRO’s Risk Analysis working group 4.04.07. The program provided plenty diverse presentations ranging from using real option analysis to deal with uncertainties to effects of bark stripping on wind resistance of Norway spruce.

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.

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.

When a fire starts to burn

Rachel MacManus, Head of Content at Green Lady Media, has gathered insightful information in her article The growing problem of wildfires in Britain and what to do if you see one for the latest edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine. It discusses the different causes, consequences and ways to tackle this problem. “Aside from the cost of tackling these blazes, and resources diverted from emergencies like traffic collisions and house fires, the damage to the natural habitat can be catastrophic,” Rachel explains.

Reducing wildfires in the countryside: Workshop in Ireland

Workshop meeting to collect input for the Northern Irish Vegetation Fire Strategy

45 participants from across Ireland, all of them highly interested in vegetation fire, held a workshop meeting on 20-21 March 2018 in Belfast. The event was also attended by a number of international fire experts and specialists from the UK, Spain, Germany and the US: Chuck Bushey, former president of IAWF; Michael Bruce, Vice Chair of Scottish Wildfire Forum; Rob Gazzard, UK Forestry Commission Fire Adviser; Craig Hope, Lead Wildfire Officer South Wales Fire Service; Simon Thorp, UK Heather Trust; Jordi Vendrell, fire weather and behavior analyst of the Pau Costa Foundation; Alexander Held, European Forest Risk Facility (hosted by European Forest Institute’s Bonn office).