Why action is needed on forest fires

Forest fires are an increasing threat across Europe, in particular in Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Greece.

Between 2000 and 2017, 611 people were killed and the economy has lost over €54 billion.

This is because there are more fire prone areas, a longer fire season and in general, larger more damaging fires.

Wildfire risk management programmes and policies that are effective against forest fires in normal weather are now insufficient to prevent extreme events such as megafires.

Integrated fire management

Effective forest fire management and risk-informed policy making should follow an integrated fire management approach.

This is because forest fires are complex and caused by a number of factors including

  • structural causes rooted in land and urban planning
  • climate and weather conditions
  • human activities in the vicinity of forests
  • cultural traditions

The integrated fire management approach takes into account the competing demands of forest uses and potential risks they may involve.

This ensures that wildfires are managed in a way that the safety of people, housing, economic growth and ecosystem services are maintained or increased.

EU funding for forest fire management

The EU funds research on forest fires through its framework and other funding programmes.

Over the past two decades, about 60 research projects received EU funding worth more than €100 million.

These range from large and small-scale projects to Marie-Sklodowska Curie individual fellowships under Horizon 2020.

These projects have stimulated advances in fire knowledge, operational management and decision-support mechanisms.

Improving forest fire risk management in Europe

Review of forest fire projects

A review of the forest fire projects found that EU-funded research has opened 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 multi-stakeholder workshop, the Commission has developed a number of recommendations to improve forest fire management.

Key recommendations for policy-makers

  • reinforce the EU’s disaster response capacity
  • support proactive prevention operations
  • improve coordination between EU and national policies across sectors
  • integrate environmental policies with fire management strategies
  • improve preparedness and engage with local communities      

Projects for Policy report: Forest fires - Sparking firesmart policies in the EU

Infographic: Forest fires - Sparking firesmart policies in the EU

Publications

Commission policies and initiatives on forest fires

rescEU: a stronger collective European response to disasters

Science for Disaster Risk Management 2017: Knowing better and losing less

European Climate Change Adaptation Conference 28-31 May, 2019

International Fire Behaviour and Fuels Conference 29 April to 3 May , 2019

European forum on disaster risk reduction 21-23 November 2018

VIII International Conference on Forest Fire Research