Italian Tuscany, department of the French Gironde, Spanish Aragon. Just a few examples of areas hit by massive forest fires this year. British firefighters recently said that the last time they were out that much was during the Second World War.
In less than seven months, the most fires have occurred in Europe since indicators monitored by the European Forest Fire Reporting System (EFFIS). He also issued extreme fire danger warnings for 19 countries on Wednesday.
Therefore, the number keeping track of the cumulative number of fires in Europe is likely to increase. It currently stands at 1,899, seven more than the all-year high. Every fire in the next five months will only add to the record.
Even now, there was also a much above average burned area left by a massive fire. While the average from 2006 to 2021 per calendar year was 350.5 thousand hectares, this year the EFFIS recorded nearly 450 thousand hectares of land burned.
How the massive fires developed in Europe from June 13 to July 20 is illustrated in the video below.
Server founder Climate facts Ondráš Přibyla pointed out that climate change significantly affects the frequency and extent of fires. “Climate change is quite clearly increasing and intensifying the weather that is suitable for the occurrence and spread of fires. This happens especially during heat waves, which dry out the landscape within days, and then fires can spread quickly,” he said.
Romania reports the biggest difference from the normal situation this year. While fewer than 50 fires in natural environments normally affect the country per year, this year at the end of June there were fifteen more. This year is guaranteed to be an above average year for Spain and France as well. On the other hand, Italy still has a theoretical chance of getting into the average.
Unsurprisingly, Romania also leads the way in how much the country has been affected by the fires. This value already exceeds half a percent (more than 149 thousand hectares), which exceeds the average for other EU countries except Portugal. In Croatia, for example, this year’s incinerators are twice the usual, while Portugal’s are half. In this country, fires routinely burn parts of the land.
The founder of the Climate Facts initiative believes that multiple fires will not be uncommon in the future. “There is still a lot of forest that can burn, and the weather that supports fires will become stronger as climate change progresses,” said Seznam Zprávám Přibyla.
There have been more fires this year around the world. “We have data on the increasing number of fires from different parts of the world: Southern Europe, the United States, Siberian forests and Australia. In the case of southern Europe and the United States, the links to climate change, for example dry and hot weather, are very clear,” said the expert. But as he adds, the proximate cause of most fires is people.
At the same time, fires are more natural in some places than others. “Fire has become a common occurrence in nature and is part of the natural cycle in several parts of the world. Every few years, a fire sweeps across the landscape, scorching the dry grass that has accumulated. And the steppe grass ecosystem in particular has no big problems with this. The fire will not destroy the seeds and the grass will grow again when it rains,” explained Přibyla.
At the same time, the growing number of fires in the savannas and steppes illuminates the many – and at first glance threatening – fires on the African continent, which can be seen in the World Fires videos from 2020 to 2022. “In forested landscapes, fires are less common and restoration of ecosystems requires a much longer time. Sometimes ecosystems don’t need to be restored at all, for example when old forests are destroyed and rain washes away exposed land,” explained Přibyla, adding that an increase in the number of fires in the long term changes the landscape, as soil without plants erodes, does not hold back water and dries faster.
The Czech Republic is not far behind
Above average fires have not spared the Czech Republic either. “In the last 60 years, most parts of the Czech Republic have shown an increase in the number of days with favorable weather for the occurrence and spread of vegetation fires, while after 2000 this trend has increased significantly,” said climatologist Miroslav Trnka in a statement. Handbook of Extreme Weather Climate Facts Initiative.
And the firefighters’ data only confirm the words of the climatologist Trnka. The number of fires this year (7,179 fires as of July 21, 2021) has exceeded the 2016-2021 annual average (average 6,697 fires per year). The biggest increase was seen in March this year, when firefighters put out 2,402 forest fires.
According to Příbyl, the use of fossil fuels needs to be limited to reduce fires. “We need to stop the continued warming, climate change. What will happen if we stop – as humans – adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, that is, if we stop burning fossil fuels,” said the expert.
It is also important to observe safety measures when there is an increased risk of fire.
Fire – safe behavior
- Smoking is prohibited in forests and parks.
- Fires may be lit in nature only in designated areas (usually official campsites).
- It is especially inappropriate to light a fire in a strong wind, during a period of extreme drought, in tree roots, in dry leaves, pine needles or peat.
- It is forbidden to release lucky lanterns in nature.
- Campsites must be 50 meters from forest or 100 meters from piles and dry fields.
- When starting a fire, there needs to be something to put it out (water, sand or clay).
- Do not throw glass containers out in nature – sunlight can act as a magnifying glass and can burn dry grass.
- Before leaving the fire, you must make sure it is completely extinguished.
- If the fire spreads beyond the fireplace and you are unable to extinguish it yourself, call the fire department (150) or emergency line (112) immediately.
“Good forest management, retaining water in the landscape and understanding that when meteorologists declare an increased risk of fire, it is not a good idea to burn grass,” said Ondráš Přibyla.
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