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Forest fires

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Forest firesEvery year, some 45,000 forest fires break out in Europe. Between 1989 and 1993, 2.6 million hectares of woodland were destroyed by fire in the Mediterranean alone. That amounts to an area equal to that of Belgium being struck off the map every five years.
Fires cause considerable damage in terms of loss of life and in environmental terms through the destruction of fauna and flora. They also have serious economic implications: destruction of habitats, forest damage, costs of fire-fighting, and so on.
Most of these fires are caused by man. However, there are many natural factors such as drought, wind speed and topography, which influence the spread of fires and govern their devastating effects.

 

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Fire-fighting is a complicated business. The aim of research is to understand the behaviour of fire and to give decision-makers, technicians, and firemen the tools to enable them to act with the necessary effectiveness and speed.
The European Commission is funding several pilot projects. They are designed to:
- identify high-risk areas clearly
- perfect accurate detection methods
- establish effective solutions to control and reduce the spread of fires, and restore affected areas.
The MEGAFIRES project, for example, produces a map of "danger" areas in Mediterranean countries, while MEFISTO produces real-time forest fire simulators, and PROMETHEUS studies the effects of fires on vegetation and suggests management methods to limit damage.

Forest fires

MINERVE: a question of method
Predicting the level of meteorological danger is a key aspect of protecting forests from fire. Among other things, it enables better management of combat strategies. The problem is that each country tends to use its own methods. The MINERVE project compared the different methods used in Mediterranean countries. In the end, a Canadian method (Indice Forêt Météo) was chosen and successfully tested in France, bringing improved results for everyone's benefit.

 
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