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Category: fire

rescEU put into practice!…partially.

The current heat wave does not only create a feeling of summer holidays but above all, it puts fire and rescue services as well as foresters on constant alert.

At the same time, the rescEU plan is getting into its next phase, which is good news. RescEU is the common European response to disasters by strengthening the EU’s collective ability to react.

Especially in consideration of the high risks of forest fires, the Commission has launched the first fleet of firefighting aircraft under the new rescEU systems, consisting of two aircraft from Croatia, one aircraft from France, two aircraft from Italy, two aircrafts from Spain, and six helicopters from Sweden. The Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides stated: “With rescEU, we have put words into action. We have delivered a practical tool for citizens that can save thousands of lives in the future. RescEU means having a much stronger, pan-European civil protection system.”

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Springtime in flames

and Alexander Held

What had already been predicted in 2018, became true.

Spring is too warm and too dry, again. The year 2019 had a hot start: during the first four months, more areas have been burned than during the entire 2018 across Europe. The Joint Research Centre’s European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) of the EU Science Hub recorded 1233 fires corresponding to a burned area of more than 250 000 ha by the end of April. In comparison, there were 1192 fires burning 181 000 ha during the whole 2018.

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Extreme Trockenheit führt zu hoher Waldbrandgefahr

Von Alexander Held & Maria Schloßmacher

Aufgrund akuter Waldbrandgefahr herrscht in vielen Regionen Deutschlands und darüber hinaus derzeit die höchste Warnstufe. Bereits vor Ostern musste die Feuerwehr zahlreiche Waldbrände löschen.

Der Waldbrandgefahren-Index des Deutschen Wetterdienstes (DWD) stuft vor allem Brandenburg, den Süden Mecklenburg-Vorpommerns, das nördliche Sachsen und den Osten Sachsen-Anhalts als stark gefährdet ein. Im nördlichen Sachsen dürfen wegen der hohen Brandgefahr einige Wälder nicht von der Öffentlichkeit betreten werden.

Gründe für den Ausbruch des Feuers sind vielfältig und doch leicht auszumachen. Die Kombination aus dem Rekordsommer 2018 und die anhaltende Trockenheit haben den Wäldern zugesetzt, sodass die letzten (Wasser)-Reserven aufgebraucht sind. Sollten sich die Prognosen über ein weiteres Dürrejahr 2019 bestätigen, werden auch die Zahlen der Waldbrände weiter drastisch steigen. Trockene Pflanzenreste und der Wind tragen zum Ausbruch des Feuers bei. Der Wind trocknet altes Gras, noch bevor das neue Grün wachsen kann und begünstigen so die schnelle Ausbreitung des Feuers. Da die Bäume erst langsam beginnen ihre Blätter zu bilden, kann die Sonne ohne Schutz bis auf den Waldboden scheinen und trockenen Pflanzenteile sind leichter entflammbar. Dadurch ist die Waldbrandgefahr im Frühling besonders hoch einzuschätzen.  Wind und Trockenheit, mehr noch als die Temperatur und die warmen Tage über dem Osterwochenende, spielen dabei eine entscheidende Rolle.

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Fire management in Viking style – looking for solutions together

The North is getting hot! Last year with its uncommonly warm and dry spring and summer caused lot of problems to the forest and agricultural sector in the Nordic countries. In addition, Sweden suffered from extensive wildfires. Due to climate change, summers like 2018 might become the new normal. To address this, the Nordic Council of Ministers launched a project group  that is a collaboration between Nordic Agri Research (NKJ) and Nordic Forest Research (SNS). SNS held a workshop “Nordic forestry in times of extreme weather” in Copenhagen, Denmark, on the 1st of March to discuss amongst the participants from the ministries and fire service, how Nordic collaboration could be strengthened to face the new challenges. Laura Nikinmaa from the European Forest Institute’s Resilience Programme was invited to be a guest speaker together with Marc Castellnou from the Pau Costa Foundation and Martin Vendelbo from the Danish Emergency Management Agency.

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Sparking firesmart policies in the EU – let's train together!

The European Commission recently published a report entitled: Forest Fires, Sparking firesmart policies in the EU.

Forest fires constitute a serious and increasing threat throughout Europe, particularly in Greece, Spain, France, Italy and Portugal. Currently we are also observing more and more fires in the temperate zone of Central Europe. Despite a decreasing trend in the number of fires and areas burned, observed in some countries since the 1980s, larger and more damaging fires (i.e. ‘megafires’) are challenging the suppression capacities of many wildfire protection programmes across Europe.

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A Call from the US for the European Forest Risk Facility?

I was in Barcelona on Monday 11 February to participate in the EFIMED event Facing Forest Fires with EU Commissioner Christos Stylianides. The Commissioner explained his rescEU plan aiming at improving the European system to tackle natural disasters in more detail. Immediately, my earlier thoughts on this plan came back to mind: I still think rescEU might have the wrong focus, and we should allocate resources towards wildfire prevention rather than fire suppression.

Stylianides’ speech was followed by four contributions from science, practice and also the policy level. They all had a clear message, that coincides with our European Forest Risk Facility‘s vision (resilient landscapes – adapted communities – adequate response): Instead of more fire fighting aircraft (which is part of rescEU) emphasize must be given to landscape- and forest management, i.e. managing the fuel load, fuel availability, and fuel characteristics to enable safe and effective fire management. Often, this fuel management is addressed through the use of prescribed fire, especially in the Mediterranean.

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SURE Projekt "on tour": Waldbrand-Reise nach Brandenburg

von Martin Schmitt, Andreas Schuck und Alexander Held
Zwei der zahlreichen Brände in der Saison 2018 erfuhren besondere Aufmerksamkeit: Treuenbrietzen und Fichtenwalde bei Beelitz in Südbrandenburg. In Treuenbrietzen mussten drei Ortschaften geräumt. In Fichtenwalde wurde es notwendig, zwei Autobahnen (A9/A10) zu sperren. Die Situation wurde zusätzlich dadurch erschwert, dass beide Waldbrandflächen munitionsbelastet waren.
Im Rahmen einer Schulung für die “Berliner Feuerwehr Einsatzbereitschaft 4” waren wir (Andreas Schuck und Alexander Held vom EFI) in Berlin-Brandenburg unterwegs.

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