Forest Fires - Sparking firesmart policies in the EU

Recommendations for firesmart policies

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Shared knowledge case: Forest Fires - Sparking firesmart policies in the EU


Since 1989, the EU has been funding research on forest fires. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction clearly recognizes the strong role that science can play in improving our understanding of wildfire risk and communicating on new knowledge and innovation. Stemming from the conclusions of EU research and innovation projects and of multistakeholder workshops, this report is timely for initiating a permanent dialogue between science, management and policy actors to exchange visions and know-how. It brings forward the concept of Integrated Fire Management and offers a wide portfolio of solutions to prevent and combat forest fires. Making the wealth of knowledge and the implications of such knowledge available for developing forest fires risk mitigation strategies is a pre-requisite to implementing adequate policies and to better protect the European citizens, the economy and the environment against mega fires. :

Forest fires constitute a serious and increasing threat throughout Europe, and in particular in Greece, Spain, France, Italy, and Portugal. 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. This trend is the result of unbalanced policies that can be effective in fire suppression in normal weather conditions but are insufficient to prevent extreme events such as mega-fires. The EU has been funding research in the field of forest fires over the last two decades through its Framework Programmes and other funding instruments. About 60 research projects, from large-scale integrated projects to more traditional projects or Marie Skłodowska Curie individual fellowships, received a total EU contribution of more than EUR 100 million. This document critically reviews the results of EU research on forest fires with a view to exploring policy adaptation to face the new challenges imposed by mega fires. The review demonstrates that EU-funded research has stimulated advances in fire knowledge, operational management, and decision-support mechanisms while enhancing cooperation between the key actors. The review highlights specific areas for improvement. 

There is a tendency to favour fire suppression, with its straightforward short-term results, over the long-term investment effort required for prevention (including climate-change adaptation), which could improve the effectiveness of wildfire protection programmes. 

The concept of integrated fire management provides a very useful framework that includes the consideration of the various socioeconomic and environmental aspects associated with fire management. 

EU Member States face similar forest fire riskmanagement issues but use different standards of training, competencies and operations. Harmonised information systems for emergency response, wildfire prevention, risk monitoring and data collection would ensure better cooperation, coordination of resources and knowledge transfer between agencies and stakeholders. 

Local specificities (e.g. fire weather, socioeconomic activities, land-use and vegetation dynamics, cultural perception and awareness of the risk) are critical to understanding and managing wildfires and should be integrated into fire-related policies at local, national and EU levels. 

The analysis of the knowledge, methodologies and technologies produced in the last two decades opens up new perspectives for forest fire risk management in the face of climate and environmental changes, social and cultural trends and growth dynamics. Based on the findings of the review and the conclusions of a multistakeholder workshop, key recommendations have emerged and are proposed for a more extensive dialogue between the key actors to improve forest fire risk management in Europe. The set of policy recommendations follows the logical sequence of the fire management cycle and addresses the main human, physical and environmental elements with an impact on the risk-management process (see figure). The proposed recommendations should be taken into account in light of the corresponding policy challenges (identified by evidence-based science) and support the overall EU policymaking process. 

Tags: fire, policy


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  • Alexander Held
  • Laura Nikinmaa
  • Ciaran Nugent
  • Nuria Prat-Guitart
  • Craig Hope


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