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.
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, a spirit of friendship and increase the trustful cohesion of the fire community.
Through the cooperation with Vallfirest, the European Forest Risk Facility can support the event with hand tools, PPE and drip torches. Very much appreciated indeed.
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.
In einem Interview mit der Deutschen Welle betont Waldbrandexperte Alexander Held von EFI’s Resilience Programme die wichtige Bedeutung von Brandprävention im Wald und sagt: “Würden wir unsere Hausaufgaben machen, hätten wir keine Feuer zu bekämpfen, die erstens Menschenleben kosten und zweitens so intensiv brennen, dass wir Ökosysteme über Jahrzehnte zerstören. Doch 90 Prozent des Feuerbudgets wird in die Brandbekämpfung investiert statt in Prävention und Landmanagement.”
Auf der Basis von seiner langjährigen Tätigkeit als Waldbrandmanager u.a. in Florida, Kalifornien und Südafrika beschäftigt sich Held zum Beispiel mit “Pflegefeuern”, die die Artenvielfalt erhöhen, und mit kontrolliertem Brennen, um Brennmaterial präventiv zu entfernen und damit große und schwer kontrollierbare Flächenbrände zu vermeiden. Der Berater kritisiert, dass es für Präventivprojekte zu wenig politische Unterstützung und demzufolge keine Finanzierung gibt. Wenn es dann aber brenne, sei genügend Geld für Löschflugzeuge vorhanden, so Held.
Warum Mischwälder feuerfester sind, welchen Nutzen langfristige Forschung zu Waldbrandschutz und -bekämpfung haben könnte und was die Auswirkungen des Klimawandels zu den aktuellen extremen Wetterlagen beitragen, kann man im DW-Interview “Waldbrandmanager empfiehlt: Vorsorge statt teurer Löschtechnik”, das von der Journalistin Karin Jäger geführt wurde, lesen.
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.
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.
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.