EU Science Hub

Wildfires Triggering Natech Events

Abstract: 

The wildfire risk in Europe is increasing, as is the geographic expansion of wildfires to north and southeast Europe. When wildfires intersect with hazardous industry in Wildland Industrial Interfaces, they can trigger toxic spills, fires or explosions. Climate change and the associated transformation of the surroundings of industrial installations raise concerns about future industrial plant safety in wildfire zones, as external hazards can also be carried into industrial sites. However, there is no integrated European fire management system that would meet the requirements for the prevention of wildfire triggered industrial accidents. This study focuses on Wildland Industrial Interfaces and analyses the vulnerability of European industrial sites to wildfires based on current scientific knowledge and international initiatives. It also makes recommendations for policy makers, industry, emergency responders and academia on how to close existing risk management gaps. Past data shows that there have already been incidents due to wildfires, confirming that this hazard has the potential to increasingly cause damage to technological systems in the future. If no appropriate protection measures are implemented, wildfires can harm industrial facilities via thermal radiation (heat), ember flight or direct flame impingement to industrial infrastructure or process equipment. Since the necessary level of safety can only be reached by an integrated risk management approach involving all stakeholders, concerted action of policy makers, industry, emergency responders and science is required.