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).

In House Fire Training for EFI Bonn staff

by Johanna Strieck and Laura Nikinmaa

To round up an already eventful week at the EFI Bonn, EFI-Senior Expert Alexander Held took us (Laura Nikinmaa, Junior Researcher and Johanna Strieck, Communications Trainee) last Friday, February 24th  to controlled heathland burning to the Drover Heide, nearby Bonn, to learn more on fire management and to get an idea of its practical application in the field. It was a great day for making your first experiences with controlled burning, and the compact small-scale operation on 10-15 ha allowed plenty of time for explanations. Sun exposure and wind speed was quite high and the level of humidity was moderate to high.

European forests at risk: new challenges and possible solutions

by Johanna Strick & Laura Nikinmaa

The cold Czech winter offered a warm welcome when the participants of the kick-off event of the project “Sustaining and Enhancing the REsilience of European Forest” (SURE) started in Písek, Czech Republic, on 18th of February. More than 50 scientists, practitioners and policy makers from 19 different European countries gathered to exchange experiences with forests risks and related disturbances. Hosted by Pro Silva Bohemica and European Forest Institute, the event was the kick-off for the collaboration towards a European Forest Risk Facility.

Paradox: cold weather phenomenon – high fire danger index

IMG_0315
Prescribed Fire in NW Germany, 23 Feb 2018

Central Europe is experiencing a rare weather phenomenon:

A polar vortex has caused Arctic air to suddenly warm up and send freezing cold south towards Central Europe, which has already suffered days of frigid weather. The event, known as a Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW), usually chills for two weeks or longer and brings widespread snow. It has not occurred for four years, official government (UK) records show, and last time brought the coldest March for 51 years to Scotland for instance.

However, while Europe is preparing for cold, snow and ice, we can observe a paradox phenomenon: Before the expected snow and ice is arriving, the current weather conditions do indeed increase fire danger. Dry air with RH (relative humidity) dropping as low as 30% and winds gusting up to 60 km/h make ideal conditions to burn winter-dry fuels.

Traditional prescribed burning at this time of the year should be carried out only with wind under 30 km/h and with utmost care.

The Forest Service of Ireland for instance has issued a RED Fire Danger Index for the coming days: FIRE_DANGER_NOTICE_DAFM_ 27_February

irish_fires_27_feb_2018
Actives fires in western Ireland detected with AFIS Advanced Fire Information System mobile app. 27 Feb 2018…..following the risk analysis and red FDI Warning the day before. Source: C. Nugent

Cui bono? – Discussing aerial forest firefighting

A rough estimate of (business) interest in aerial firefighting

In general, only 10% of a fire management budget is spent on fuel load management for prevention and 90 % are spent on fire suppression. In these 90% the majority again is dedicated to aerial assets. This article would like to stimulate a reflection on how to create more balance in the use of fire management budget. 

This compilation of thoughts on the monetary benefits of aerial firefighting is not intended to be conclusive, but rather a suggestion –  a suggestion that hopefully provokes further conversation among diverse stakeholders about how the urgently needed balance between fire suppression (response) and land- and forest management (prevention, mitigation, resilience) can be reached.

This short text does clearly not intend to say we do not need aerial firefighting. Of course we need any support that we can get while fighting unwanted fires. The intention however is to motivate equivalent political will and budget for prevention and mitigation, for increasing the resilience of the land and to make firefighting safer and more effective.