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.

Invitation to International Prescribed Fire Meeting (FLAMEWORK)

European Forest Institute’s SURE project and its initiative to establish the European Forest Risk Facility is again supporting a network activity. We are exchanging with fire and forest experts from 7 countries, this time in Mafra, Portugal, 5 to 10 of May 2019

The III international Prescribed Fire Meeting of Mafra comes as a result of the use of prescribed fire as a land management tool during the last decade, and after the first and second training conducted in 2017 and 2018, with overwhelming positive evaluation by all the participating technicians.

The Mafra 2019 Operational Training, supported by the SURE project and the European Forest Risk Facility initiative, will bring together expert technicians from all around the world ( seven countries) and will create opportunities for knowledge exchange. One of the objectives of this exercise is to make it as practical and operational as possible, simulating a training camp so that participants can strengthen partnerships, spirit of friendship and increase the trustful cohesion of the fire community.

The provisional program may be changed due to weather conditions. Take a look at the program here and here for the list of invited speakers.

Further reading: This is a very interesting, and motivating, blog post from the “Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network”. With some minor adaptions (land use change for instance), this article refers not only to the US but to Europe just as well! Read it, and please consider that, in Europe, prescribed fire is only one tool in the land- and fuel management toolbox.

 

Waldbrände in Kalifornien – von Reaktion zur Prävention?

In Kalifornien sind Waldbrände relativ normal und gehören zur natürlichen Kreislauf der Vegetation. Zurzeit nehmen sie aber – selbst für kalifornische Bedingungen und vor allem für die Jahreszeit – extreme Ausmaße an, berichtete heute das WDR-Magazin Quarks in seinem Beitrag Waldbrände in Kalifornien – wie man vorbeugen kann. Gleich mehrere Flächenbrände wüten im Bundesstaat, über 6.700 Hektar Land und fast 7000 Häuser sind bereits abgebrannt. Mit Malibu ist auch ein Prominenten-Viertel von Los Angeles betroffen. Etwa 8.000 Feuerwehrleute sind im Einsatz, und US-Präsident Donald Trump beschuldigt ihn seinen Tweets sowohl die Privatwaldbesitzer als auch den amerikanischen Forest Service, dass dieser Präventionsmaßnahmen unterlassen habe und deswegen eine Mitschuld an den Waldbränden trage.

Die Autorin des Beitrags, Wissenschaftsjournalistin Anne Preger, hat unseren EFI-Waldbrandexperten Alexander Held zu Brandursachen, zur Arbeit des US Forest Service, und zu langfristig nötigen Präventionsmaßnahmen befragt.

Pregers differenzierten, ca. 7-minütigen Beitrag kann man hier hören.

Darüber hinaus wurde Alexander Held auch live per Skype einer Sendung des Online-Journals BILD Aktuell der BILD Zeitung zugeschaltet. Ab ca. Minute 17 ist das Interview mit Held hier zu sehen.

Im Interview mit dem WDR 2 äußert sich Held u.a. zu Risikominimierung, Brennmaterial und den Fehlern, die man bei der Landnutzung in Kalifornien gemacht hat:

Further reading: This is a very interesting, and motivating, blog post from the “Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network”. With some minor adaptions (land use change for instance), this article refers not only to the US but to Europe just as well! Read it!

 

Lehren aus den Waldbränden 2018

Der Sommer 2018 war und ist immer noch ein ausgesprochener Feuer-Sommer für unsere Wälder in Deutschland und Zentraleuropa. Eine ungewohnt hohe Zahl von Vegetationsbränden zwingt zur Diskussion der Ursachen einerseits, regt aber auch zum Nachdenken an, was zukünftig getan werden kann und muss.

Erste schnelle Reaktionen befassen sich wie üblich sofort mit der Feuerwehr und der Frage, wie die Einsatzkräfte in Zukunft noch besser und effizienter vorgehen können –  also der reaktive Ansatz und die Bekämpfung des Symptoms, aber nicht der Ursache. Selbstverständlich brauchen wir Feuerwehren, die bestmöglichst ausgebildet und ausgerüstet sind. Der Blick über unsere Ländergrenzen hinweg bietet zahlreiche Möglichkeiten, hier nachzubessern. Die European Forest Risk Facility und das weitere Netzwerk sind seit langem in diesem Bereich des länderübergreifenden “Exchange of Experts” tätig. Allerdings nicht nur auf reaktiver Seite sondern auch und vorallem in den Bereichen Prävention und Erhöhung der Resilienz.

Siberian fire smoke: where does it go?

The European Union’s Observation Programme, Copernicus, and its Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) predicted that in July smoke from fires in the Sakha, far east of Russia, would travel an astonishing 9500 km – across the Arctic Ocean to Alaska, North-West Canada and the west coast of Greenland.

According to a recent press release, “CAMS Global Fire Assimilation System (GFAS) estimates that between 2003 and 2017 Russian wildfires emitted on average about five mega tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per day. At the end of June this year, the fires suddenly increased in intensity, upping their carbon dioxide output to approximately 20 mega tonnes per day.” This is not new; Siberian summer season is no stranger to wildfires, but being able to predict the movement of the smoke can help to prevent effects of affected areas.

“Close-to-nature” fire prevention

Targeted or tactical grazing for fire prevention is nothing new, but worthwhile to be highlighted again under the current wildfire situations across Europe.

Personally, I am a believer in large scale prescribed burning as an effective and nature friendly prevention tool. But I have to admit that the idea of producing steaks, chops and sausages through fuel load reduction grazing is also very appealing to me indeed! And it can be applied all year round! And as always, to manage fire we need a toolbox with many different tools! Prescribed burning is one, grazing another. The recent BBC report on “prescribed grazing” says it all.

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 own safety. Here’s where evacuations take 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 that the crisis management cycle has more phases than just the response. Is that single-focused reporting maybe a reason for 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

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.