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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 megafires. 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 pro- jects to more traditional projects or Marie Skłodowska- Curie individual fellowships, received a total EU contri- bution 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 megafires. 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 risk- management 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.
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in the EU
Research & Innovation
Projects for Policy
Research and
FOREST FIRES — Sparking firesmart policies in the EU
European Commission
Directorate-General for Research and Innovation
Directorate I — Climate Action and Resource Efficiency
Unit I.3 — Sustainable Management of Natural Resources
Contact: Nicolas Faivre
European Commission
B-1049 Brussels
Manuscript completed in November 2018.
This publication by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation
aims to provide evidence-based scientific support to the European policymaking process. The scientific
output and recommendations expressed do not imply a policy position on the part of the European
Commission. Neither the European Commission nor any person acting on behalf of the Commission
is responsible for the use which might be made of the following information.
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Directorate-General for Research and Innovation
Climate Action and Resource Efficiency
European Commission
Sparking firesmart
policies in the EU
Research & Innovation
Projects for Policy
Editor: Nicolas Faivre
Authors: Francisco Manuel Cardoso Castro Rego;
Jose Manuel Moreno Rodríguez;
Victoriano Ramon Vallejo Calzada
and Gavriil Xanthopoulos
This Report has been prepared by the Directorate General for Research and Innovation, under the overall guidance
of Director-General Jean-Eric Paquet, Deputy Director-General Patrick Child and Director John Bell. The work
leading to this report was based on a collaborative and consultative process involving Commission services and
external experts.
We would like to thank in particular the following persons for their contribution to this publication: Christofer Anders
Ahlgren, Arya-Marie Ba Trung, Marc Castellnou, Sander Happaerts, Doru-Léonard Irimie, Rose Kelleher, Peter Loffler,
Daniel Nuijten, Denis Peter, Philippe Quevauviller, Eric Rigolot, Jesus San-Miguel-Ayanz, Laura Schmidt, Ignacio Seoane,
Monica Sonia and Tamas Szedlak.
FOREST FIRES Sparking firesmart policies in the EU
Making the wealth of knowledge and the implications
of such knowledge available for developing forest fires
risk mitigation strategies is a pre-requisite to imple-
menting adequate policies and to better protect the
European citizens, the economy and the environment
against megafires.
I hope the recommendations of this report will serve
as a call to action and will reinforce the exchange of
information and collaboration within the EU forest fire
I would like to thank all EU staff and experts who con-
tributed to the report with their hard work, dedication
and enthusiasm.
Dear policymakers, practitioners and scientists,
Last year in Portugal and just a couple of months ago
in Greece, we learned at great cost that wildfire risk is
an ever present and increasing threat in Europe. Extraor-
dinary in their size, intensity, and severity, 'megafires'
are challenging the capacities of national wildfire pro-
tection programmes and represent a major concern for
the Union. EU solidarity and support are active at all
stages in fire prevention, during the crisis management
and in the post-disaster reconstruction.
Since 1989, the EU has been funding research on forest
fires. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction
clearly recognises the strong role that science can play
in improving our understanding of wildfire risk and com-
municating on new knowledge and innovation.
In the aftermath of the tragic events of last year the
European Commission has taken several initiatives,
including taking stock of 20 years in forest fire research,
to open new perspectives for future forest fire risk man-
agement and governance in Europe.
Stemming from the conclusions of EU research and inno-
vation 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 con-
cept of Integrated Fire Management and offers a wide
portfolio of solutions to prevent and combat forest fires.
Carlos Moedas,
Commissioner for Research,
Science and Innovation.
FOREST FIRES Sparking firesmart policies in the EU
1. Recent forest fire trends in Europe 10
2. Europe in a new wildfire context 11
1. Promoting effective science-based forest fire management and risk-informed decision-making 14
2. Shifting the focus from suppression to prevention and increasing the awareness
and preparedness of populations at risk 15
3. Improving firefighting and the rescue capacities of first responders in crisis management 17
4. Developing synergies between EU and national policies to improve wildfire risk management 18
5. Promoting resilient landscapes and communities through integrated fire management 19
1. EU research efforts 22
2. Portfolio of projects and funding instruments 23
3. Achievements of EU forest fire research 25
4. The added value of EU-level research and innovation investment 28
5. Barriers and enablers for improved fire risk management 29
1. Support cross-sectoral and multilevel governance to leverage the impact
of public policies on wildfire risk management 32
2. Reinforcing the European Union’s disaster-response capacity 33
3. Supporting proactive prevention operations adapted to local socioeconomic
and environmental contexts 34
4. Integrate fire ecology principles into fire management strategies and policies
to support sustainable forest management 35
5. Improve preparedness through FireSmart governance systems empowered
by local communities 37
Annex I Barriers, incentives and research needs 40
Annex II Future research and innovation programming 46
Annex III List of projects mentioned 46
Research & Innovation Projects for Policy
> 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 risk-
management 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
> 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 multi-
stakeholder workshop, key recommendations have
emerged and are proposed for a more extensive dia-
logue between the key actors to improve forest fire risk
management in Europe.
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 nor-
mal weather conditions but are insufficient to prevent
extreme events such as megafires.
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 pro-
jects to more traditional projects or Marie Skłodowska-
Curie individual fellowships, received a total EU contri-
bution 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 megafires. 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 high-
lights specific areas for improvement.
Megafires ignite and propagate in very severe
weather conditions, which often makes them
extraordinary due to their size, intensity and
deep and long-lasting social, economic and
environmental impact.
FOREST FIRES Sparking firesmart policies in the EU
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 chal-
lenges (identified by evidence-based science) and sup-
port the overall EU policymaking process.
Support cross-sectoral and multi-
level governance to leverage the
impact of public policies on
wildfire risk management
Reinforce the European Union’s
disaster response capacity to better
protect EU citizens
Improve preparedness through FireSmart governance
systems empowered by local communities
Linking challenges & recommendations
to wildfire risk-management aspects
Policy challenges
Policy recommendations
Supporting proactive
prevention operations
adapted to local socioeconomic
and environmental contexts
Integrate fire ecology
principles into fire
management strategies
and policies to support
sustainable forest
Promoting effective science-based
forest fire management and risk-
informed decision-making
Promoting resilient landscapes and
communities through integrated fire
Shiing the focus from suppression
to prevention and increasing the
awareness and preparedness of
populations at risk
Improving firefighting and
the rescue capacities of first
responders in crisis management
Developing synergies between EU
and national policies to improve
wildfire risk management
GRAPHIC 1. Policy recommendations for improved forest fire risk management
Research & Innovation Projects for Policy
Research & Innovation Projects for Policy
Forest fires (the term used in Europe to designate the
unwanted fires burning forests and wild lands; also
referred to as ‘wildfires’ in this report) are a major hazard
throughout Europe, producing large environmental and
economic losses and having an impact on human lives.
Over 40 000 fires per year were reported between 2010
and 2016 in Greece, Spain, France, Italy and Portugal,
where most of the burned area is located (approximately
85 % of the total burned area in Europe). The surface
affected by fire every year between 2010 and 2017
amounts to 350 000 hectares. A noticeable decrease in
the number of fires and in the total burned area has been
reported in the countries affected most, except for Portu-
gal, since the 1980s (see Figure 1). However, these aver-
age values vary greatly from year to year; it has been
observed for a given year that the average area burned
was double or triple that which was burned in the preced-
ing years. Due inter alia to climate change, analyses of
European forest fires occurring in the last 30 years show
an increase in the length of the fire season, with extreme
fire events also occurring in June and October, at the
edge of the traditional fire season.
The impact of forest fires in the EU in the 2000-2017 period
> Environmental losses: 8.5 million ha burned, approximately 480 000 ha/year.
> Human losses: 611 firefighters and civilians killed, nearly 34 people/year.
> Economic losses: over EUR 54 billion, approximately EUR 3 billion/year. Under rapid economic growth and
increased greenhouse gas emissions, the economic impact for Greece, Spain, France, Italy and Portugal may
increase to over EUR 5 billion/year by 2070-2100.
Sources: European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), EC PESETA II projec t report.
Source: EFFIS.
25 000
50 000
75 000
100 000
125 000
150 000
175 000
200 000
225 000
250 000
Portugal Spain France Italy Greece
FIGURE 1. Average area burned (ha) per year by forest fires over the last several decades
in the five largest countries in southern Europe.
FOREST FIRES Sparking firesmart policies in the EU
A long history of human land use, climate variations and
associated disturbances such as fire have shaped most
European landscapes, in particular the current mosaic-
like vegetation patterns of Mediterranean ecosystems.
Fire is a natural component driving the evolution and
adaptation of native plant species in many fire prone
ecosystems across Europe. The problem lies in the
changes in fire frequency, size and intensity, to which
neither ecosystems nor communities are adapted.
Large-scale and more intense wildfires are becoming an
increasing concern
. The occurrence of such extreme
wildfire events is determined by two fundamental fac-
tors: the weather conditions and the fire proneness of
forested landscapes. In unfavourable meteorological
conditions such as heatwaves, these extreme wildfire
events, or megafires, may occur in the course of a few
days, with multiple very large fires simultaneously burn-
ing sizable portions of a whole territory or country. In
Greece, 2018 was the last year in which a series of
tragic events occurred, starting in the Spanish Levante
in 1994, and then occurring in Portugal (2003, 2005 and
2017), Spain (2006 and 2017) and Greece (2000 and
2007), to name some of the worst cases.
This new wildfire context is defined by extreme fire
behaviour characterised by rapid fire spread, intense
burning, long-range fire spotting and unpredictable
shifts. In addition to their serious ecological impact,
extreme wildfire events have an extraordinary socio-
economic impact in terms of both loss of human life
and economic damage. Most damage caused by fires is
due to extreme wildfire events, which only account for
about 2 % of the total number of fires.
1 Tedim, F. et al. (2018), ‘Defining extreme wildfire events: difficulties, challenges, and impacts’, Fire, Vol. 1, No 1, p. 9.
Research & Innovation Projects for Policy
The trend in recurring and tragic fire seasons in Europe
reflects the limits of conventional wildfire and forest
management strategies and programmes in efficiently
addressing the phenomenon. Progress has been made
to date at different levels, including the revision of
national forest programmes, the development of criteria
and indicators of sustainable forest management and
voluntary codes of best practice. However, the growing
number of extreme wildfire events indicates that con-
temporary land-management strategies need to
account for the disturbance regimes and ecosystem
types that define fire prone landscapes. This new con-
text calls for more effective science-based forest fire
management and risk-informed decision-making
which account for the socioeconomic, climate and envi-
ronmental roots of wildfires. This also means shifting
the focus from suppression to prevention within the
framework of integrated fire management and increas-
ing the awareness and preparedness of popula-
tions at risk. Addressing the new context of wildfires in
Europe will therefore imply strengthening European
cooperation on forest fire risk management through
effective synergies between EU and national policy
objectives and territorial governance. As a result,
more balanced and sustainable forest management
strategies that integrate prevention, climate adaptation,
education, preparedness, suppression and restoration
aspects could be implemented.
2 Sustainable forest management is ‘the stewardship and use of forest lands in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their biodiversity, productivity,
regeneration capacit y, vitality and their pot ential to fulfil, now and in t he future, relevant ecological , economic and social functio ns, at local, national
and global levels, and that does not cause damage to other ecosystems’. Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe. Resolution
H1 of Helsinki (1993).
Sources: FUME project ‘Lessons learned and
outlook’ and EFFIS (Copernicus Emergency
Management Service).
FIGURE 2. Occurrence of forest fires with burning areas of over 500 ha during the 1981-1999
period (top panel) and during the 2000-2017 period (bottom panel).
Research & Innovation Projects for Policy
There is a vast amount of information on wildfires at
local, regional and global levels. However, one major
challenge is ensuring that the practice of fire man-
agement and its associated governance are making
full use of science-based findings and innovations.
Specific efforts should be devoted to improving knowl-
edge transfer to and exchange with practitioners and
decision-makers, notably with regard to the following.
> Fire behaviour and trends. Wildfire risk is deter-
mined by a combination of many factors, including
vegetation, climate, forest management practices and
other socioeconomic parameters. Management actions
and deployment of resources to deter fires are planned
based on where and how fires occur. Hence, precise fire
mapping and statistics describing how wildfires are
changing in time and space are deemed essential for
assessing the role of driving factors such as climate,
‘R & D’s immediate priorities lie on governance,
fire management and risk, information and
public behaviour on rural landscapes.’
Tiago Oliveira — President of the mission struc-
ture for the installation of the integrated man-
agement system of rural fire in Portugal.
Civil Protection
EU Forest strategy, Common Agricultural Policy
Jobs, Growth and Investments
EU Climate Adaptation Strategy
Union Civil Protection Mechanism (rescEU)
Environment, Climate, Agriculture
and Rural Development
European Regional Development Fund
Cohesion Fund, Horizon 2020, LIFE+
EU Bioeconomy Strategy
EU Habitats Directive, EU Biodiversity Strategy
Promoting effective science-based forest fire
management and risk-informed decision-making
Promoting resilient landscapes and communities
through integrated fire management in the EU
Shiing focus from suppression to prevention
and increasing the awareness and preparedness
of population at risk
Improving firefighting and rescue capacities of
first responders in crisis management
Developing synergies between EU and national
policies to improve wildfire risk management
EU Space Policy (Copernicus - EFFIS)
EU Research & Innovation (R & I) has played and con-
tinues to play a key role in identifying and addressing
these policy challenges by opening avenues for sustain-
able change, harnessing misconceptions of the what,
how and why, in favour of evidence-based decision-
making and management of forest fires in Europe.
A recent scientific review of EU R & I projects contrib-
uted to identifying some of the main policy challenges
related to forest fire risk management and governance,
which can further be addressed by the relevant EU and
national policies.
land-based features, fire policies, etc. Policymakers
and management agencies require information on
wildfire probability, behaviour and spatio-temporal
trends to manage fire prone landscapes and to eval-
uate the efficacy of prevention plans. Territorial and
environmental policies have great potential for
addressing the structural causes of fire ignition and
propagation in the long term.
FOREST FIRES Sparking firesmart policies in the EU
> Wildfires and climate change. Climate change
affects forest fires, both directly through the weather
conditions that affect fire ignition and propagation,
and indirectly through its effects on vegetation and
fuels. Forest planning actions are scheduled with
a timescale of a few decades, which requires taking
into consideration how the climate will change and its
impact on future forest health and fire conditions.
Understanding how future climate change will con-
tinue to affect forests and their fire proneness
in Europe is important in determining fire adaptation
and the mitigation potential of forests and natural
areas. Furthermore, we need to prepare EU forests
and the forest sector to address the nature and mag-
nitude of the challenges posed by climate change.
Doing so will depend on the different territorial sce-
narios existing in Europe on different spatial scales.
> Fire ecology. Landscapes are a reflection of past
uses and land-management actions, in particular in
southern Europe where wildfires are frequent events.
In a context of changes in wildfire regimes, climate
and vegetation legacies, managing these ecosystems
to maintain the services they provide is a challenge.
To this end, providing information about how eco-
systems respond to fire is most relevant for managing
landscapes and planning post-fire recovery.
> Fire and people. Coexistence with wildfire is strongly
influenced by the type of fire regimes that operate in
a given landscape and the degree to which communi-
ties can reduce exposure and vulnerabilities there.
Changes in the social and economic characteristics
of the population can influence current fire activity
in a given area. Wildland–urban and rural–urban inter-
faces are the spatial manifestation of the coupling
of fire and people, and the most proximate scale
of exposure and risk mitigation. Advancing our under-
standing of people’s perception of fire management
and policies is a prerequisite for their successful
In many countries outside Europe, such as the United
States, the transition from complete emphasis on fire
control to more integrated fire management policies
occurred as a result of catastrophic fires that caused
distress in firefighting systems and required continual
budget increases. Similar trends have been observed to
a relatively lesser extent in Europe. The importance and
value of forest fire prevention has been demonstrated
through various research projects in the Mediterranean
region. Currently, fire prevention forms part of the fire
management policy in all southern European countries,
however it does not receive the necessary emphasis
Research & Innovation Projects for Policy
and funding compared to fire suppression. Similarly, the
preparedness of agencies and communities to deal with
extreme fire events is often far from optimal.
‘Without extinction, prevention is useless but
without prevention, extinction is impossible.’
EFIRECOM project
> Fire weather and fire danger rating. Fires typically
occur in certain meteorological conditions. Fire sensi-
tivity to changes in weather varies from place to
place. For operational purposes, fire weather indices
based on meteorological variables are used for pre-
dicting fire ignition and spread potential. A proper
understanding of how the meteorological conditions
influence fire spread and intensity is imperative for
accurate forecasting of fire danger. Improving mete-
orological diagnostics and fire danger forecasts would
lead to a more effective use of fire suppression
resources and planning of emergency operations.
> Fire preparedness. Large and very intense forest
fires are occurring in many different regions in
Europe and the various agencies and communities
are generally not prepared to cope with these new
challenges. The preparedness of agencies and com-
munities to deal with those events requires ade-
quate evaluation of risk and timely communication
through the development of early-warning systems,
as well as training of personnel for efficient emer-
gency operations, including evacuation or confine-
ment plans. This also entails developing public
awareness and education and addressing the mis-
conception that fire protection is the sole responsi-
bility of the fire department
> Wildland-Urban Interface. The depopulation of rural
areas and the expansion of urban areas in western
Europe has led to the creation of important interfaces
between houses (and other built infrastructures) and
forests and other vegetation types with accumulated
biomass. When burning, such a high fuel load can
create very significant threats to people and make
firefighting and other civil-protection operations much
more difficult to coordinate. This situation, known
internationally as the wildland-urban interface or the
rural-urban interface, has contributed to more intense
wildfires that are able to devastate large geographic
areas, causing significant loss of human life and prop-
erty. Limiting the sprawling of WUIs and mitigating the
impact of wildfire in these interface areas elicits many
social and scientific challenges, such as establishing
construction and development standards, defining
asset-protection zones with proper fuel management
and predicting fire spread and behaviour in interface
areas and making this information available to the
public for a better response in case of emergency.
FOREST FIRES Sparking firesmart policies in the EU
> Land, aerial and space detection. In extreme
weather conditions a fire start can rapidly develop into
a large and intense wildfire with catastrophic effects.
Timely and accurate detection requires the integration
of fire behaviour and forest knowledge at strategic
and tactical levels. Rapid wildfire detection is there-
fore fundamental to coordinating and performing
a quicker and stronger initial attack.
> Firefighting techniques and technological tools.
The increasing intensity of wildfires, together with the
increased concern about fire safety and costs, requires
better strategies and tactics for firefighting. There is
a strong need for professional development in fire-
fighting and the promotion of safety practices for
firefighters in order to face extreme wildfire events in
Europe. Successful professional development in fire-
fighting depends on the integration of training and
education, which are aligned with the principles
of integrated fire management. Common Incident
Command Systems and common standards on
capacity building for emergency training at European
level are needed for enhancing international fire-
fighting assistance.
> Fire safety. Safety is a key issue for all involved in
fire management. Research has been dedicated to
the selection of appropriate firefighting protective
equipment, but also to the promotion of safety con-
cerns for current and potential vulnerable areas (e.g.
in the WUI) and groups such as tourists. Awareness
campaigns focusing on fire safety, but also on the
optimisation of operations — such as firefighters’
equipment and the use of forest roads for evacua-
tion and for safe firefighting — are all part of the fire
safety issue. The major challenges for dealing with
this aspect of fire suppression lie in the risk associ-
ated with wrong decisions that can expose lives to
unnecessary danger. As decision-making relating to
safety concerns is delicate and complex, strong
cooperation and the exchange of experiences and
lessons learned in Europe and worldwide are neces-
sary in order to be in a position to recommend new
options in this area.
> Fuel management. Changing socioeconomic condi-
tions in rural areas have contributed to changing forests
in terms of area, growing stock and structure. These
changes are thought to be key factors in determining
the increased frequency and impact of wildfires
throughout the continent in the last century. The
increasing trend in fuel load and continuity in southern
Europe can also be attributed to land abandonment,
inadequate landscape and forest management, and
fire exclusion policies. The projected increase in drought
severity and associated increase in fuel flammability
due to climate change are further intensifying forest
fire risk beyond existing fire prone areas. Hence, there
is a need to integrate forest fire prevention principles
in land- and forest management strategies.
‘To prepare for megafires, we don’t need
more resources, we need better managed
Marc Castellnou — Catalunya Fire Service
Research & Innovation Projects for Policy
Fire regimes are changing almost everywhere as
a result of climate change, and land-cover and land-use
change. Although most of the annual burned area is
concentrated in the southern countries, northern areas
such as Scandinavia have also suffered from unprece-
dented forest fires in the last decade. Challenges of this
magnitude can hardly be managed by individual coun-
tries. However, national wildfire legislation and policies
differ among EU Member States according to varying
risk exposure and management strategies, political
leadership and stakeholders’ involvement, but also
because of the different government agencies respon-
sible for fire risk management.
> According to the subsidiarity principle at EU level, the
formulation of forest policies is the responsibility
of the Member States within a clearly defined
framework of established ownership rights and
national and regional laws and regulations for long-
term planning
. The EU complements the efforts of
its Member States by identifying policy priorities
relating to forest fires in the context of sustainable
and climate-resilient forest management, providing
financial assistance to forest fire-related activities
and creating a common European Forest Fire Informa-
tion System (EFFIS)
. Nevertheless, the coherence
between EU policies’ objectives with respect to wild-
fire risk management should be improved. It is also
necessary to assess the level of complementarity or
coincidence between those policies and the national
legislative frameworks defining the structural meas-
ures and operational activities regarding forests’ and
communities’ protection from fire.
> At the national and subnational levels, territorial poli-
cies have a role to play in solving the wildfire problem
at the prevention and propagation stages, but also in
raising risk awareness, notably in metropolitan, rural
and wildland-urban interface areas. Significant differ-
ences exist between Member States in regard to the
degree of centralisation of forest fire management
and the type of agency to which the various fire man-
agement responsibilities are assigned. The influence
of the multilevel governance structure is a key
issue in wildfire management. Therefore, the involve-
ment of multiple organisations in fire management,
from national to local level, requires the clear defini-
tion of authority, functions, tasks and responsibilities,
together with the effective coordination of their
> Significant shortcomings can be identified in relation
to the adoption of research results by policies
and operational forest fire management, which
reflects resistance due to vested interests, deeply
rooted opinions, fears and traditions, inadequate
information dissemination, administration con-
straints and, sometimes, simply resistance to
change. Governance is a key aspect of sustainable
forest fire management. Adequate governance
mechanisms can facilitate the integration of science
into operations. Similarly, transparency and openness
in these governance mechanisms can increase citi-
zens’ participation and politicians’ accountability,
opening the way for traditional and local knowledge
> Another important policy element relates to the post-
fire management of burned areas. Whereas in all
EU Member States burned areas are protected from
land-use changes for a number of years after a fire,
immediate and compulsory reforestation is no longer
a self-evident requirement. The traditional approach
for the management of burned areas in the Mediter-
ranean region has been based on reforestation with
conifers since the 19th century. Nowadays the range
of alternatives is much wider (e.g. natural regenera-
tion or passive restoration; assisted restoration
through appropriate silvicultural techniques to support
natural regeneration; active restoration through active
seeding or plantation; and finally conversion to other
non-forest uses). Yet the post-fire restoration methods
currently implemented in Europe do not always take
into account the fire ecology of affected forest and
vegetation types.
> The ecological role of fire and its controlled use
to achieve management objectives (e.g. ecological
succession, wildlife and livestock pasture improve-
ment, fuel reduction and wildfire suppression) is only
4 EFFIS complements national databases and aims to provide EU level assessments of situations before and after fires, to support fire prevention
through risk mapping, and to promote preparedness, firefighting and post-fire evaluations.
FOREST FIRES Sparking firesmart policies in the EU
reflected to a limited extent in current national poli-
cies. For instance, prescribed burning is recognised as
an efficient technique of wildfire prevention but is still
very controversial in some countries
. The legal
frameworks for burning in the Mediterranean Basin
range from countries that prohibit it (e.g. Greece) to
those that have developed regulations and basic cri-
teria and conditions for the use of fire (e.g. France,
Portugal and some regions in Spain and Italy). Overall,
there is a lack of integration of fire prevention princi-
ples in current forest- and land-management prac-
tices and policies
. Policy instruments creating
incentives for forest and land owners to align deci-
sions and management with the sustainable provision
of ecosystem services and wildfire prevention objec-
tives are critically needed.
Forest fires are complex phenomena with structural
causes rooted in land and urban planning, climate and
weather conditions, human activities in the vicinity of
forests and cultural traditions. Holistic solutions to man-
age wildfire risk in fire prone areas should therefore be
based on a multipurpose strategy that appropriately
considers the competing demands of forest uses with
the potential risks they may involve.
Integrated fire management builds upon a combination
of prevention and suppression strategies stemming
from social, economic, cultural and ecological evalua-
tions. Beyond the sole consideration of fire prevention
and fire suppression, integrated fire management links
Integrated fire management is a concept for
planning and operational systems aiming at
minimising the damage from and maximising
the benefits of fire.
the four steps of emergency crisis management, i.e.
mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.
> Holistic approach. Wildfires primarily affect the for-
estry and ecosystem service sectors, but agricultural
and energy production, public health and tourism may
also be impacted, causing damage to property and
loss of life. The challenge is to develop integrated
5 Carreiras, M. et al. (2014), ‘Comparative analysis of policies to deal with wildfire risk’, Land Degradation & Development, Vol. 25, No 1, pp. 92-103.
6 Montiel-Molina, C. (2013), ‘Comparative assessment of wildland fire legislation and policies in the EU: towards a fire framework directive’. Forest
Policy and Economics, Vol. 29, pp. 1-6.
Research & Innovation Projects for Policy
solutions which take into account the objectives of
forestry, urban and rural development, agricultural,
climate and energy policies to ensure that wildfires
are managed in such a way that the safety of people
and housing, economic growth and ecosystem ser-
vices are maintained or increased (see Figure 3).
Inside the forest domain, a multi-risk approach is
needed to take into account the interactions and pos-
sible amplification processes between fire and other
biotic and abiotic threats. Developing more efficient
and integrated solutions requires better-informed
decision-making and more cooperation and coordina-
tion, and should be supported by evidence-based
> Building a common culture of risk. The perception
society has of the risk of forest fires determines to
a large extent people’s response in emergency situa-
tions. Forest fires are largely perceived by society as
a threat. Although awareness campaigns have been
effective in reducing the number of fire ignitions and
promoting responsible behaviour, they often underes-
timate the importance of the ecological and environ-
mental functions which fire helps to maintain.
Ensuring communities’ resilience to the danger of
forest fires requires an improvement in the knowledge
of actual exposure to the risk and the effective
response in the event of an emergency, as well as
a better understanding of the differences between the
ecological role of fire and the risk-prevention meas-
ures associated with catastrophic wildfires.
> Inclusive approach to the common welfare. Pre-
vention, extinction and post-fire restoration tasks are
fundamentally the responsibility of public institutions.
Nevertheless, the lack of joint responsibility shared by
local communities and land owners calls into question
inadequate land-use practices and negligent behav-
iour causing ignition in fire prone areas. In addition to
involving local communities in the design and plan-
ning of prevention measures, strengthening the forest
sector and promoting bioeconomy and nature-based
solutions, as new ways of sustainable consumption
and production, can leverage participative governance,
self-protection behaviour and a sense of belonging to
the area.
> Knowledge exchange and access. The uncertainty
associated with the occurrence of extreme wildfire
events requires integrated studies to understand the
interaction among the main drivers of extreme fires,
i.e. weather, climate, landscape structure and connec-
tivity, fuel build-up and continuity, and social issues.
This uncertainty limits the scientific community with
regard to the effective operational translation of sci-
entific results to enhance wildfire management poli-
cies and practices. Nevertheless, information about
wildfire dynamics and trends should be easily acces-
sible to all bodies involved in the fire management
process to improve understanding and deci-
sion-making capacities. Finally, ecology, climate
change and forest fire management principles, which
are often an unfamiliar subject for educators, should
be better addressed in curricula.
FIGURE 3. The approach of integrated fire
management considers each step of the
management cycle and brings together the
human, physical and ecological elements with
an impact on the risk management process.
FOREST FIRES Sparking firesmart policies in the EU
Research & Innovation Projects for Policy
This chapter focuses on the project portfolio analysis of the
R& Iprojects dealing with forest fire risk management or
The section highlights the trends, major achievements and
added value of EU-funded forest fire research. In addition,
the barriers, incentives and future research needs are further
described. The section is asummary of amore comprehensive
review report produced by agroup of scientific experts. All
projects mentioned in this report are listed in Annex III.
The number of projects focusing on forest fires and
associated funding has been increasing since the begin-
ning of the EU Research Framework Programmes. Inter-
est in investigations into forest fires in the southern
Member States of the EU has been steadily building
and has been continuously supported by national fund-
ing sources and the various EU funding schemes at
multiple levels (large or small research projects, individ-
ual fellowships, science and technology networks, etc.).
European forest fire research started slowly in the
1960s and 1970s, concentrating on the ecological role
of fire, with the first research projects on forest fires
associated with programmes relating to environmental
protection and forests. Its significant development was
only made possible by the creation of the EU research
FPs, the main funding instruments for science and tech-
nology policies. The first multinational programmes,
, were instrumental in starting
pan-European forest fire research, with an initial focus
on technologies such as fire modelling and automatic
fire detection. More work followed under the Fourth
Framework Programme (1994-1998), with projects
addressing the impact of wildfires and the ecological
role of fire.
Triggered by a sharp increase in the number and scale
of forest fires, associated with socioeconomic changes,
climate change and the difficulties of forest- and fire
management policies of addressing this new context,
the research efforts concentrated on the driving factors
of fire risk, fire behaviour and its effects and fire sup-
pression methods. Through the results of this research,
it soon became evident that forest fires constitute
a significant management challenge because they are
influenced by many complex and interacting ecological,
social, economic and political factors. As illustrated by
the wealth of information on forest fire-related science
produced in the last few decades, i.e. 400 scientific
publications produced each year by Greece, Spain,
France, Italy and Portugal, European research has
greatly contributed to advancing our scientific under-
standing of the fire phenomenon. The EU has become
the second-largest producer of forest fire publications
worldwide, with the United States being at the forefront
of forest fire research and innovation.
7 ‘Science and Technology for Environmental Protection’ programme 1989-1993.
8 ‘European Programme on Climatology and Natural Hazards’ 1989-1992.
FOREST FIRES Sparking firesmart policies in the EU
EU-funded projects relating to forest fires were
reviewed, most of them funded by the ongoing Horizon
2020 and the last two Framework Programmes (i.e. FP6
and FP7). In total, 56 projects were reviewed. The type
of project varied from large-scale integrated projects
(e.g. FIREPARADOX, FUME) to smaller projects and indi-
vidual Marie Skłodowska-Curie grants (e.g. FIRESCAPE,
GRADIENT). Other research projects which emphasised
the demonstration of effective forest fire management
were funded under the LIFE programme (e.g. ENERBIO-
SCRUB, MONTSERRAT) or under the Civil Protection
Mechanism (e.g. PREDICATE, WUIWATCH).
Regarding the participating institutions, a greater partic-
ipation of higher-education and research institutions was
observed with a balanced representation among
EU Member States. Several projects involved small
and medium-sized enterprises (e.g. FIRELI, SCODEV) to
bring innovative forest fire equipment and technologies
to the market. EU funding also targeted coordination
actions between research institutions (e.g. PHOENIX,
FORESTERRA) and cooperation actions among neighbour-
ing countries (e.g. HOLISTIC) (see Annex I for a complete
list of projects). The total EU contribution to the projects
reviewed amounted to EUR 103.2 million (see Table 1).
Programme/Action Number of
projects reviewed EU contribution (million EUR)
Sixth Framework Programme 1 12.6
Seventh Framework Programme 17 47.6
Horizon 2020 (2014-2017) 11 23.5
LIFE Programme 7 4.9
Civil Protection Mechanism 18 7.5
Coordination Actions 1 0.1
Cross-border cooperation 1 6.9
Total 56 103.2
In general, most projects concentrated on research in
Europe, particularly around the Mediterranean Basin,
including other non-EU countries from this area, but
research was also carried out in other parts of the world.
The involvement of other non-EU researchers made it
possible to benefit from views from elsewhere in
a cross-fertilisation experience.
The projects were divided into six thematic areas corre-
sponding to the sequence of forest fire risk-manage-
ment activities (see Table 2). ‘Fire science’ projects
investigated issues relating to fire behaviour modelling,
fuel characterisation and mapping; fire ecology in gen-
eral; historical fire spatial and temporal patterns; social
aspects; and climate change. ‘Fire prevention’ projects
investigated issues relating to fire meteorology and fire
danger rating; fuel management and adaptation meas-
ures, including prescribed burning, and use of biomass;
preparedness, including risk assessment to support
early warning, public communication and emergency
response; risk management within interface areas
(e.g. wildland-urban interface). ‘Fire detection’ projects
relating to ‘land, aerial and space detection’ focused on
the rapid location of fire ignition points and rapid fire-
fighting response. ‘Fire suppression’ projects investi-
gated firefighting techniques, from aerial firefighting to
TABLE 1. Sources of EU funding and corresponding investments for the 56 forest fire research
projects under review.
Research & Innovation Projects for Policy
the use of fire as a suppression tool; fire safety, aware-
ness and evacuation strategies; technological tools and
innovations for improved forest fire risk management
and firefighting operations. ‘Post-fire recovery’ pro-
jects looked at damage and loss assessment (e.g. pre-
diction of fire severity and ecosystem vulnerability,
monitoring and assessment of the impact of fire) and
investigated the potential for restoration techniques to
reduce fire risk and increase resilience. ‘Fire integra-
tion’ projects studied the development of integrated
solutions to deal with fire management. Research
investigated how several aspects relating to social and
economic issues, climate change, the use of biomass for
energy, tourism, territorial planning or fire risk aware-
ness were integrated into governance and wildfire pro-
tection programmes.
The areas most addressed by EU research on forest fires
are fire prevention, fire suppression and fire science
(Table 2, Figure 4). Less attention has been dedicated
to research topics relating to post-fire recovery among
the projects reviewed.
Thematic area Projects Specific topics
1. Fire science 16
1.1. Fire behaviour
1.2. Fire ecology
1.3. Fire spatial and temporal patterns
1.4. Social aspects of fires
1.5. Climate change effects on fires
2. Fire prevention 21
2.1. Fire meteorology and fire danger rating
2.2. Fuel and forest management
2.3. Preparedness
2.4. Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI)
3. Fire detection 4 3.1. Land, aerial and space detection
4. Fire suppression 20
4.1. Firefighting techniques
4.2. Fire safety
4.3. Technological tools
5. Post-fire recovery 65.1. Damage and loss assessment
5.2. Restoration
6. Fire integration 5 6.1. Integrated fire management
TABLE 2. The six thematic areas considered for assessing the contribution of research projects
to forest fire risk management. Thematic areas are further subdivided into specific topic areas.
FOREST FIRES Sparking firesmart policies in the EU
Integrated fire management
Fire behaviour
Fire ecology
Fire spacial & temporal patterns
Social aspects of fires
Fire meteorology
& fire danger rating
Climate change
Fuel management
Wildland Urban Interface
Land, aerial & space detection
Firefighting techniques
Fire safety
Technological tools
Damage & loss assessment
Fire science
Fire prevention
Fire suppression
EU R & I has stimulated advances in fire knowledge, oper-
ational management and decision-support mechanisms
while enhancing cooperation between the key actors.
Advancing our scientific understanding
European countries have made a significant effort to
reduce forest fire risk. Investing in research has resulted in
significant advances towards understanding the social,
ecological and technical aspects relating to forest fire
detection, response and suppression, prevention and post-
fire restoration. Scientific progress in the field of forest fire
risk has contributed to the facilitation and stimulation of
innovations, new management and the adoption of meas-
ures, as well as a better understanding of the risk itself.
> For instance, our understanding of how ecosystems
respond to fire is deemed essential for managing
landscapes in a context where fires are prevalent. As
highlighted in the FUME, FIRESCAPE and FILE projects,
the combined risks of changes in fire regimes and cli-
mate have great potential to alter plant charac-
teristics (e.g. increase in flammability) as well as
ecosystem dynamics (e.g. shifts in the dominant veg-
etation), through altering the balance of species and
reducing post-fire regeneration. Such shifts in vegeta-
tion dominance (e.g. from Pinus to Quercus species)
may occur as a result of one or consecutive fires
owing to past management practices. Moreover,
severe droughts can impair the balance of species
and reduce the recovery of the vegetation after fire.
These results are readily usable by forest managers to
have an a priori vulnerability assessment of how the
ecosystem will respond after a fire occurs and to
develop a climate-adaptation plan to enhance their
forests’ resilience to climate change.
> Management actions and deployment of resources to
deter fires are planned based on where and how fires
occur. It is therefore essential to know how forest
fires are changing in time and space in order to
FIGURE 4. Relative occurrence of the forest fire research thematics covered
by the projects under review.
Research & Innovation Projects for Policy
assess how the various drivers of change, including
climate, land use/land cover, fire policies and fire-
fighting efforts, among others, have been influencing
fire regimes in Europe. The reconstruction of fire
perimeters during the last 30 years or so has made it
possible to identify areas at risk in the whole
Euro-Mediterranean region (FIREPARADOX, FUME and
GRADIENT projects). Trends in fire frequency and
burned area in southern Europe are not consistent
with climate-change trends, signifying the importance
of country-level structural factors. Such information
on fire selectivity among the land-cover features of
a landscape can be used to guide management plans.
> Forest planning actions are scheduled within a times-
cale of a few decades, which requires taking into con-
sideration how the climate will change and will
affect future fire conditions. Fire weather danger is
expected to increase in Europe with climate change
and will be characterised by extreme weather phe-
projects). Climate change will therefore pose a serious
threat to current fire management due to a most
severe fire danger season and its expansion during
the year. In addition, vegetation-fire models and cli-
mate scenarios indicate that changes in land use and
land cover affecting forest productivity may constrain
fires where these are prevalent today (e.g. Iberian
peninsula), and that other areas such as eastern
Europe may become fire hotspots under unabated
climate change. The expansion of fire prone areas to,
for example, high mountain areas is likely to alter the
dominance of endemic species and produce a full
ecosystem change.
Science to support operational management
The practice of fire management in southern Europe
does not always make full use of the innovations deliv-
ered by scientific projects. Specific efforts should be
devoted to improving knowledge transfer to practition-
ers and decision-makers. Nonetheless, several exam-
ples from applied research projects demonstrate the
effective uptake of EU R & I findings.
> Knowing how to detect a forest fire in the initial
stages and how to estimate its probable propagation
according to terrain, fuel and weather conditions is
considered a very important issue in preventing a fire
outbreak from developing into a large fire, because it
allows a rapid initial attack with adequate resources.
Recent technologies use networks of sensors for
automatic fire detection and fire alarms. The
FIRESENSE and ODS3F projects have contributed to
reducing the high rate of false alarms typically asso-
ciated with these systems through the development
and use of appropriate sensors and algorithms.
> The increasing intensity of wildfires, combined with
increased concerns about fire safety and costs, has
led researchers to investigate better ways of how to
develop special firefighting techniques. The AF3
project integrated a variety of new technologies (e.g.
drone imagery) which can be managed by the com-
manding personnel under one system and deployed
at every step of the crisis-management process. The
FIREPARADOX project demonstrated and docu-
mented the potential use of suppression-fire tech-
niques for the control of extreme wildfires that
exceed the response capacity of firefighting assets.
Following appropriate training, suppression-fire tech-
niques were applied by civil-protection operators in
Advanced 2D fire propagation model called
‘TIGER’ and 3D (virtual reality) forest fire area
simulator for teaching wildfire behaviour and
providing wildfire fighting training. The simulator
has been installed and is being operated at the
Corpo Forestale dello Stato training centre of
Castel Volturno.
FIGURE 5. Pre-fire analysis of fire spread
in the National Park of Vesuvio, Campania
Region (Italy) on 20 July 2016.
FOREST FIRES Sparking firesmart policies in the EU
Italy and Portugal. The FIREFFICIENT project illus-
trated that suppression efforts, when applied in pre-
determined and small, carefully selected areas
based on anticipatory fire behaviour knowledge, are
more effective than spreading resources along the
fire perimeter. These so-called strategic manage-
ment points make it possible to reduce the speed at
which a fire spreads and its intensity while ensuring
a secure point for firefighters (DEMORGEST).
Research projects have also developed multiple
solutions to enhance the effectiveness and safety of
current firefighting practices, notably through
strengthening the capacity of fire crews on the
ground. This includes technological solutions such as
a new firefighting hose with retardant properties
(FIRELI) or an autonomous robotic firefighting vehicle
(FIREROB), as well as innovative techniques with the
use of suppression fire to attack large fires indirectly
> Fuel management is critical in reducing the probability
of fire ignition and fire propagation. As a result of fire
exclusion, there is an accumulation of biomass in
many European forests, causing an adverse effect on
the maintenance of biodiversity, an increase in fire risk
and a larger subsequent amount of wildfire damage.
How to improve fire resistance and resilience in
highly fire prone systems is a major challenge of
fire prevention and post-fire restoration, which
are currently managed among EU Member States
according to different methodological considerations,
priorities and organisational and legal frameworks.
The development of an adaptive forest management
toolbox (MOTIVE) for adaptive forest management
under climate change has contributed to equipping
forest managers with methods for strategic forest
management planning. The procedures for the wise
use of fire (FIREPARADOX) and the development of
landscape-management and backcasting scenarios
(INTEGRAL) to achieve specific management objec-
tives are also available through several online plat-
forms, technical guides and demonstration sites in
Europe (FIREPARADOX, FUME). Given the untapped
potential of biomass use in several regions of Europe
(e.g. harvest/increment rate below 25 % in several
regions in the south, compared to 60-70 % in terms of
overall EU figures), research projects demonstrated
successful examples of collaboration between local
authorities and local forest and shepherds’ associa-
tions to maximise the profitability of biomass extrac-
tion for energy supply and promote fire prevention,
biodiversity conservation and rural development, in
order to recover a more fire resilient agrosilvopastoral
landscape (MONTSERRAT).
Better-informed decision-making
> Research projects have contributed to setting the
basis for continued cooperation between agencies at
the national level and between regions and countries
on how to cope with more severe forest fires in
Europe. The FIRELIFE and EFIRECOM projects have
contributed to increasing the preparedness of the gen-
eral public through adequate risk-communication
and -prevention activities. This was exemplified by
the production of a fire risk communication toolkit
and specific assistance to national civil protection
authorities (e.g. in Hungary). In addition, ANSFR and
DECATASTROPHIZE respectively developed systems to
evaluate fire risk assessment and management in the
EU, and proposed integrated decision-support sys-
tems to assist emergency operations.
> New fire areas can emerge in places where fires have
until now been limited by unfavourable climate condi-
tions. Therefore, policymakers and management
agencies require information on how to estimate
wildfire risk probability and severity at different
scales. The ARCFUEL project developed an updated
geospatial methodology to classify forest vegetation
into fuel types in Europe and map them. This method-
ology, based on EFFIS classification, allows production
of reliable and accurate estimations of wildfire spread
and behaviour for improved decision-making.
Postfire-DSS is a tool to support decision-making
in the management of burned areas. It provides
assessment procedures and information relating
to the restoration of burned areas, in a context
of climate change. The application has been suc-
cessfully tested by scientists and forest manag-
ers in Greece, southern France and Italy.
Post-fire restoration
decision support system
Research & Innovation Projects for Policy
Network building and establishing a cooperation
The network of research institutions established through
the PHOENIX Project Centre, created within the frame-
work of the European Forest Institute and the COST
action FP0701 ‘Post-fire management in southern
Europe’, was instrumental in bringing together research
efforts while providing an updated scientific baseline for
developing post-fire management strategies and tech-
nical recommendations to forest managers in southern
Europe. The funding provided by COST actions helps
thousands of European scientists to cooperate in com-
mon research projects and to amplify the impact of
research carried out within and beyond the EU Member
Increased excellence and capacity building
A significant proportion of the investment in EU forest
fire research is for the collective public good and has
resulted, for instance, in enhancing the European knowl-
edge base, or in marketing technologies, which would
not have been financed by the private sector alone. For
example, the AF3 project received EUR 12.9 million to
develop, as part of its emergency-response system,
a Low Power Wireless Ground Sensor Network that pro-
vides early detection and near-real-time monitoring
capabilities of forest fires.
Cross-border cooperation: avoiding
redundancies and improving efficiency
The HOLISTIC project, co-financed by the European
Union through the 2007-2013 IPA Adriatic cross-border
cooperation programme, is a successful example of
pan-European partnership between eight Adriatic coun-
tries to reduce the number and impact of forest fires,
and to promote fire prevention among rural communi-
ties. The project has permitted the implementation of
direct and indirect long-, medium- and short-term
measures, through joint initiatives and pilot actions,
which have improved fire prevention policies, fire regu-
lations and response-coordination mechanisms across
the region.
Fostering mutual learning and harmonisation
Comparing trends between similar EU Member States
has made it possible to identify differences in how they
are being affected by fires nowadays and calls for
a deeper understanding of the underlying causes of
such differing tendencies. The ARCFUEL project
designed a methodology to produce harmonised and
standardised fuel-classification maps for the whole
Mediterranean region, using ‘readily available’ spatial
data sets for the Mediterranean region (JRC forest-type
and fuel-type maps, multi-temporal Landsat Thematic
Mapper (TM) images). The methodology was first
applied in Greece and Portugal at national level and
further used in Spain and Italy at regional level.
Transferability of fire management tools
and approaches
In spite of the recognised differences in conditions in the
different countries and regions and because of the fruit-
ful exchanges between partners, most of the products
and knowledge delivered by research projects can be
transferable and applicable to other fire prone areas.
For instance, the SPITFIRE project has contributed
to improving information exchange on meteorology
and forest fire risk in the border area between Spain
and Portugal through the identification, design and
A knowledge platform developed
by the FIREFFICIENT project
LESSONS ON FIRE is a knowledge-exchange plat-
form that allows generating debates, sharing
quality information, finding documents in an
organised way, finding expert people and/or ask-
ing a professional opinion about the integration
of forest fires risk in the European landscape.
FOREST FIRES Sparking firesmart policies in the EU
The review identified significant shortcomings in the
uptake of research findings by related policies and man-
agement approaches. A comprehensive overview of the
barriers, incentives and associated research needs by
thematic area is presented in Annex I. According to
experts in the field, this lack of dissemination and
exchange between the key stakeholders involved in for-
est fire management resulted in:
> relatively little change in the emphasis put on fire sup-
pression versus fire prevention in territorial policies;
> a low level of adoption by practitioners of the concept
of integrated fire management through the recogni-
tion of fire ecology principles as a key component of
the management of ecosystems;
> a relatively low level of adoption of innovative fire
suppression technologies and fire prevention
approaches in some countries;
> very limited integration and application, in training and
in practice, of the knowledge on preventive forest fire
management in the context of land use and climate
The practice of fire management in Europe is therefore
not making full use of the knowledge and innovation
delivered by scientific projects. Specific efforts should
be devoted to improving the transfer of knowledge to
practitioners and decision-makers, while avoiding
a purely reactive approach to decision-making when
planning investments and communication activities. In
addition, greater emphasis should be placed on funding
R & I actions which encompass the full forest fire man-
agement cycle. A set of recommendations for future
R & I programming is detailed in Annex II.
implementation of data interchange protocols and the
development of a cross-border service on weather and
fire risk forecasting (SPITFIRE platform). Besides the
immediate positive effects of SPITFIRE for Spain and
Portugal, this approach can be extended to the following
borders: Spain–France, France–Italy, Italy–Austria, Italy–
Slovenia, Slovenia–Croatia, Slovenia–Austria, Austria–
Hungary, Hungary–Romania, Romania–Bulgaria and
Research & Innovation Projects for Policy
Research & Innovation Projects for Policy
This section proposes concrete recommendations for
addressingidentified current policy challenges based
ontheconclusions from recent R & I projects funded
under various EU Framework Programmes. More
information ontheevidence and concrete results behind
therecommendations can be found on the project websites.
Policy challenge
Developing synergies between EU and national policies
to improve wildfire risk management
There are often multiple and complex interactions
between public policies influencing wildfire occurrence
and propagation due to the great interdependency
between forest and/or civil-protection policies with land-
use planning, agricultural and rural development, envi-
ronmental, climate and energy policies. These policies
may have important positive or negative effects, which
might support or impede the development of forest
and/or civil-protection policy programmes. An integral
approach to wildfire risk management therefore
requires the following.
‘We can design smart landscapes but we don’t
have the governance structures and economic
engines to make them happen.’
Inazio Martínez de Arano
European Forest Institute
> Increase the level of coherence between public
policy objectives with an impact on wildfire man-
agement. HOLISTIC showed that a cross-sectoral
approach can bring together spatial planning, rural
and peri-urban development, forestry, civil-protection,
energy, climate, environmental and tourism/recrea-
tional policies. It should provide the opportunity
to do an in-depth study of the structural causes
affecting wildfires (rural abandonment, climate
change, land-management practices, new policy par-
adigms and new urban demands), and it also should
give the opportunity to identify the possibilities for
intervention in relation to these (e.g. promotion of
forest ecosystem services’ added value, reduction in
fuel accumulation, forest adaptation to climate
change, etc.). In countries where the responsibility for
wildfire management is shared between the forest
and civil-protection services, a cross-sectoral
approach is even more necessary in order to guar-
antee an effective collaboration.
> Improve coordination among EU policies and
national policies on disaster prevention, prepar-
edness and response to different risks. This
includes the EU forest strategy
, the Union Civil Pro-
tection Mechanism
, the EU strategy for adaptation
FOREST FIRES Sparking firesmart policies in the EU
to climate change
, the EU regional development and
cohesion policy, environmental legislation and R & I,
as well as policies to deal with serious transnational
threats that put health and/or property at risk, for
example epidemics or terrorism. EU cohesion policy is
key to disaster prevention and management, with EUR
8 billion in investment mainly addressing the preven-
tion of and preparedness for natural disasters. Meas-
ures supported include equipment and vehicles for
civil-protection units, infrastructure, forest and fuel
management, ecosystem-based solutions, aware-
ness-raising, monitoring systems, training and cross-
border coordination. As part of the reform of cohesion
policy, preconditions were introduced to ensure effec-
tive and efficient spending such as national or
regional risk assessments, also required under EU civil
protection legislation. In 2018, new opportunities to
further strengthen actions on disaster-risk manage-
ment in forests and better define the potential role of
the EU will be provided through the review of the
EU forest strategy. Effective multilevel coordination
should include the main guidelines stemming from
the European Union, regulatory frameworks developed
at national (and sometimes regional) level and imple-
mentation plans at regional and local levels. The Fire
Intuition platform
documents the existing legislation
and policy instruments in relation to wildfires at
pan-European level. This review should assist the har-
monisation of wildfire regulations at EU level
Policy challenge
Improving the firefighting and rescue capacities
of first responders in crisis management
Wildfire policies adopted by most European countries
over the last century have been based on fire exclusion.
Forest firefighting represents a yearly budget of EUR
2.2 billion for EU governments and public agencies
(SMART FIRE BARRIER). In all Euro-Mediterranean coun-
tries, the principal aim of wildfire suppression pro-
grammes is to ensure a systematic, rapid, hard-hitting
initial attack on all fire ignitions. National firefighting
capacities rely to a large extent on aerial resources and
can therefore be insufficient in the event that adequate
aerial resources are unavailable or if it is not possible to
operate due to extreme weather conditions. The follow-
ing recommendations aim at improving the firefighting
and rescue capacities:
> Promote the use of new firefighting products or
fire suppression techniques. Innovative ICT solu-
tions using different ground and aerial detection sys-
tems based on cameras and sensors can be very
useful in detecting fires at an early stage and incor-
porate that information into networks and systems to
assist early deployment and initial attack (FORFIRE,
FIRESENSE). Despite the potential such technologies
and methodologies have to reduce costs and increase
safety and firefighting efficiency, adequate legislation
and regulation are required to allow for their imple-
mentation and integration into the Union Civil Protec-
tion Mechanism and firefighting activities, including
training. Solving the issues relating to the standardi-
sation and compatibility of existing forest fire equip-
ment should also be addressed at pan-European level
within a coordinated response scheme.
Research & Innovation Projects for Policy
> Member States may take appropriate measures to
train and equip firefighters with all possible inte-
grated fire management competencies (FIREPA-
RADOX). Efforts should be targeted at building up the
experience and know-how of first responders on the
coordination of extreme fire events through the provi-
sion of technical training on the safe and efficient use
of suppression fire, water, retardants and heavy
equipment by terrestrial or aerial means. Professional
training certified by a European qualification frame-
work should improve the efficiency of operational
systems. In addition, early warnings and predictions of
fire propagation based on terrain, fuel and weather
data can complement surveillance and patrolling
capabilities and support (ODS3F).
> Improve the interaction between local and national
authorities and promote the use of decision-
support systems, risk-knowledge-exchange plat-
forms and awareness-communication tools
In 2017, the Commission proposed an ambi-
tious new plan to strengthen the EU’s civil pro-
, including complementing national
response capacities by a reserve of new civil
protection assets at EU level (rescEU); a new
European Civil Protection Knowledge Network
to strengthen training, exercising and knowl-
edge exchange between national civil-protec-
tion authorities; and working more closely with
Member States on prevention strategies.
> Reinforce the cooperation between EU Member States
and assist first responders in the coordination of
the emergency response and in the containment of
wildfires with adequate information and resources
(DECATASTROPHIZE). Special attention should be
given to the new fire prone areas and territories of
risk, notably the WUIs.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the
United Nations
, forest fire prevention may be ‘the most
cost-effective and efficient mitigation programme an
agency or community can implement’. Despite such crit-
ical importance, prevention programmes suffer limited
budget allocation compared with fire suppression, and
often lack an adaptive legislative framework able to reg-
ulate fuel management activities, institutionalise
pre-season preparedness activities, establish an ear-
ly-warning system and prohibit potentially dangerous
activities during certain fire seasons. Changing the focus
from firefighting operations to long-term planning and
strategic decision-making is a necessary step for fire ser-
vices and should be supported through an incident com-
mand system where the operations for civil protection,
landscape planning and restoration are coordinated. Such
proactive prevention operations would involve:
> Developing a centralised, general planning and gov-
ernance framework for fire risk management aimed
at ensuring the balance between prevention and
suppression resources, and encourage operations
adapted to the local socioeconomic and environ-
mental characteristics of each region or locality.
Policy challenge
Shifting the focus from suppression to prevention and increasing
the awareness and preparedness of populations
13 Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament , the Council and the Committee of the Regions, Strengthening EU disaster
management: rescEU solidarity with responsibility (COM(2017) 773 final).
14 Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, (2006), ‘Fire management: voluntary guidelines — Principles and strategic actions’,
Fire Management Working Paper, No 17, Rome (also available at
FOREST FIRES Sparking firesmart policies in the EU
> Prevention measures can only be effective
if they combine wildfire prevention with socioec-
onomic and environmental benefits such as con-
serving biodiversity, enhancing rural development and
producing energy (BIOENERGY & FIRE PREVENTION).
> Fire prevention must target the reduction of fire
ignition as well as the management of fuels, as
these are the only factors affecting fire occurrence
and propagation upon which we can act (FUME).
> Fire prevention must integrate the long-term
adaptation of forests to climate change (MOTIVE),
adopting both short- and long-term preventive meas-
ures, such as forest thinning, reintroduction of grazing,
fire breaks (short-term), introducing more climate-re-
silient species, turning artificial plantations and sim-
plified forest ecosystems into more natural and
diversified forests (long-term). Only by integrating
adaptation consideration into forest management can
the longer-term climate risk be reduced.
> Actively engaging citizens, fire services, forest
management and other stakeholders in multidis-
ciplinary teams in fire prevention (PROMYLIFE,
> Increase public information on forest fire risk
(EFIRECOM, FIRELIFE) as well as the commitment of
communities at risk in preparedness programmes,
and limit the frequentation of fire prone areas
during the peak fire season.
> Developing and implementing appropriate regula-
tions for prevention policies and emergency man-
agement in sensitive areas such as the wildland-urban
interface at the suitable level. In Portugal, for instance,
85 % of all forest fires start within 500 m of infrastruc-
tures in the wildland-urban interface
According to the report of the Independent
Technical Committee that was appointed for
the investigation of the Pedrógão Grande fire
of June 2017 in central Portugal, the cost of
prevention actions in the 2011-2016 period
amounted to EUR 135.8 million (EUR 22.6 mil-
lion per year), while the cost of suppression in
that period reached EUR 453.4 million (EUR
75.6 million per year). It was further estimated
that the mean annual loss, due to fires, of
goods and services alone amounted to EUR
140.8 million, and the mean annual cost for
post-fire rehabilitation of the burned areas was
EUR 38.9 million.
Policy challenges
Promoting resilient landscapes and communities
through integrated fire management in the EU
Developing synergies between EU and national policies
to improve wildfire risk management
Promoting effective science-based forest fire management
and risk-informed decision-making
The EU Forest Strategy
, adopted in 2013, establishes
a framework for forest-related actions in support of the
protection and sustainable management of forests. Rural
Development Programmes (RDPs) under the Common
Agricultural Policy are the main EU funding instrument
for forest-related actions and the implementation of the
Forest Strategy. The rural development policy supports
sustainable forest management through specific forest
15 Catry, F. X. et al. (2007), ‘Spatial distribution patterns of wildfire ignitions in Portugal’, Wildfire 2007 conference, Seville (Spain).
Research & Innovation Projects for Policy
fire prevention and restoration measures that the Mem-
ber States can include in their RDPs. The optimisation
of forest management strategies at landscape level
under future scenarios of climate and land uses requires
the following:
> Developing an integrated fuel-management
strategy which reconciles economic and environ-
mental objectives (FIREPARADOX). This requires
a better understanding of past land-use-change
dynamics, the development of innovative fuel-dynamic
assessments, the integration of fire prone rural areas
into fire prevention planning and the promotion of
adaptive forest management methods (e.g. prescribed
burning, species selection, diversified ecosystems, syl-
vicultural practices such as forest thinning, regenera-
tion cuttings, reintroduction of grazing, fire breaks) to
create more resistant and climate-resilient
> Forecasting of vegetation responses to fire and
other influencing factors. Projected trends of more
severe fire regimes will increase ecosystems’ vulner-
ability to fire, and thus the damages on vegetation
and soils. In the 2000-2012 period, approximately
80 000 ha burned every year within the Natura 2000
sites, that is some 3.3 % of the total Natura 2000
area in the affected Member States
. Non-adapted,
vulnerable protected species in the Habitats Directive
are threatened by the changing fire regime and cli-
mate (FUME). Conservation policies should make use
of available remote-sensing products developed by
research (GRADIENT, PREFER) to incorporate the
assessment and monitoring of key habitat and spe-
cies responses to changes in climate change and in
fire regimes into their management strategies and
procedures. Post-fire impact prediction should provide
the scientific basis for planning the restoration of
burned areas.
> Support for the rehabilitation of burned areas.
Based on PHOENIX recommendations, post-fire reha-
bilitation should always prioritise soil and water con-
servation, account for environmental economic and
social aspects and integrate communities into long-
term planning, while ensuring that law-enforcement
capacities are in place. It is also essential to adopt an
adaptive management approach which systematically
integrates the results of previous interventions to iter-
atively improve post-fire management strategies. Due
to the different biogeographical conditions in some
areas there is a need for active and instant support
of restoration actions, while in other areas more
nature-driven processes could be more appropriate.
The planned restoration measures should reflect the
various needs indicated in the forest management
17 San-M iguel-Ayanz J. et al. (2012) F orest Fire Damage in Natura 200 0 sites 2000 -2012. E xecutive Report. P ublications Office of the European Union.
DOI: 10.2788/77848.
FOREST FIRES Sparking firesmart policies in the EU
strategy and should be supported by adequate
resources. The EU Forest Strategy includes orientation
strategies for the Member States to build a common
restoration prioritisation framework, in agreement
with the 2011-2020 Strategic Plan for Biodiversity.
The strategy further supports national action plans
for protecting forests and soil in areas most threat-
ened by land degradation and desertification. In both
cases, restoration prioritisation and the protection of
forest ecosystems are especially related to forest
fires in southern European countries.
> The regulation of the use of fire as a fuel-man-
agement and suppression tool in Europe. FIREPA-
RADOX and FUME demonstrated that fire has an
important ecological role in the dynamics of forests
and in their sustainable management. The potential
use of prescribed burning to reduce wildfire risk is not
yet reflected in current policies. An evolution of regu-
lations and policies is still required in order to promote
and improve fire use practices (prescribed burning and
suppression fire) which are consistent with the con-
cept of integrated wildland fire management, i.e.
allowing an adequate balance between the manage-
ment of natural resources and the management of
unwanted fires.
Policy challenges
Shifting the focus from suppression to prevention and
increasing the awareness and preparedness of populations
Promoting effective science-based forest fire management
and risk-informed decision-making
Fire management programmes must be supported by
governance mechanisms based on broad social partici-
pation and diffusion processes, such as learning and
exchange of good practices, in order to be effective. The
interaction of all stakeholders (i.e. local communities,
forest owners, fire technicians and local and regional
administrations) in fire networks is therefore essential
for increasing accountability, social awareness and
understanding of wildfire risk. The following recommen-
dations would contribute to address these challenges:
> Make governance mechanisms transparent to
diminish long-standing suspicion about the objectives
and associated impacts of fire-related policies. Peo-
ple’s risk perception depends on the familiarity of and
exposure to a threat and strongly influences the
acceptance of the implementation of fire manage-
ment programmes (FIREPARADOX). Increased dia-
logue between the key stakeholders can increase
citizens’ participation and politicians’ accountability.
Several indications for policymakers were suggested,
> The promotion of a risk-based approach to man-
aging forests and biomass. Forests in Europe’s
southern regions have expanded rapidly in the last few
decades, notably into abandoned agricultural and pas-
ture lands. The lack of competitive value chains and
the underutilisation of resources has led to an expan-
sion of high-density and continuous forest cover, prone
to sustaining rapid fire spread. The DEMORGEST and
ENERBIOSCRUB projects stressed the need for a sus-
tainable mobilisation of wood and other forest
products for the European bioeconomy to mitigate
wildfire risk. According to MONTSERRAT, the optimal
strategy for the future development of forests and
landscapes lies in the valorisation of all forest roles
and functions combined with effective fire prevention
measures. The EU’s Bioeconomy Strategy (now under
revision) and the Habitats Directive are important tools
in that respect to anticipate and manage possible
trade-offs between short-term wildfire risk-mitigation
objectives and long-term adaptation needs, in light of
changing socioeconomic conditions, changing forest
resources and climate change.
Research & Innovation Projects for Policy
> Develop broad awareness-raising campaigns to
prepare societies and communication actions
for targeted stakeholder groups. MIRTO demon-
strated that multilingual information campaigns
focusing on raising the awareness and preparedness
of tourists travelling to fire prone areas help to avoid
fire-related injuries and deaths by informing people
about the correct behaviour to adopt in case of
emergency, warning about the probability of a dis-
aster and changing risk perception and acceptance
about certain prevention measures. Increasing
tourism flows and consequences for fire hazards will
require further policy guidelines to prevent forest
fires, in particular in the Mediterranean Basin
> Environmental education needs to enlarge its
public audience and focus, through working on the
interaction between society, traditions and forests. It
should integrate fire safety education but also the
physical, emotional and monetary dimensions associ-
ated with fire risk.
including the importance of permanent processes for
the review and evaluation of existing practices of risk
assessment, early-warning systems and public com-
munication, and their consequences on public behav-
iour and wildfire occurrence.
> Instil fire resilience among all communities. Fire
management is a shared responsibility and local com-
munities must be part of the solution through a bot-
tom-up participatory and learning process, integrating
relevant traditional knowledge and practices (FIREFFI-
CIENT). This would help to both change the perception
of local communities as the eternal culprits of cata-
strophic fires to that of wardens of the territory, and
teach people how to live with forest fires. Empow-
ering local actors requires transferring the fire con-
trol competencies from institutional bodies to
territorial actors. In addition, policy instruments should
create incentives for forest owners to align decisions
and management with societal objectives.
Research & Innovation Projects for Policy
A significant number of barriers to the uptake of forest
fire R & I results in EU and national policies and in oper-
ational fire management have been identified for each
of the main topics. In short, these barriers relate to the
inadequacies, incompleteness and uncertainties of some
of the results, which lack maturity and are therefore not
ready for immediate application. They also relate to an
existing disconnection between science, policy and man-
agement. Country regulations, bureaucratic issues and
organisational culture further add to that.
In spite of the obstacles that were identified above, there
are some important incentives that have led to the incor-
poration of R & I results in practice so far, and are likely
to lead to more uptake in the future. Incentives include
the existence of significant problems that can benefit
directly from specific knowledge and/or technological
tools, easy availability at usable detail/scale of results,
such as fuel maps, which minimise the time, effort and
cost needed to invest in new approaches (e.g. fire behav-
iour modelling, fire prevention planning), better training of
personnel, availability of funding for investment in new
tools and technologies, and financial support to those
participating in initiatives for fire mitigation through mod-
ern approaches (e.g. to forest landowners to carry out fuel
Based on the review of the projects, the following bar-
riers and incentives for each thematic area were identi-
fied along with their associated future research needs
(see hereafter). This information should contribute to
the production of strategy documents (e.g. EU Forest
Strategy, EU Bioeconomy Strategy and Union Civil Pro-
tection Mechanism) and to the identification of research
priorities in the development of future Framework Pro-
grammes at the EU and national levels.
FOREST FIRES Sparking firesmart policies in the EU
Barriers Incentives Research needs
> Fuel mapping lacks
harmonised methodology
at EU level
> Uncertainty in predicting
extreme wildfire behaviour
> Allocation of fire suppression
resources needs better
forecasting and modelling
of fire behaviour at the
Wildland-Urban Interface
> Improved cooperation between wildfire
management agencies
and researchers
> More exchanges of operational fire
experts between countries or regions
> Promotion of common standards of
fuel characterisation for all fire prone
EU regions
> Impact of extreme climatology (heatwaves,
wind dynamics) on fire propagation
> Identification of the conditions (combinations
of weather, fuel and topography) favourable
to extreme fire behaviour
> Assessment of fire likelihood and intensity
at operational level requires high-resolution
spatial and temporal data
> Increase the accuracy of wildfire simulations
by integrating data on fuel characteristics
and fire ignition
> Improve fire model prediction capacity
in a changing context
> Develop innovative approaches (e.g. LiDAR)
for fuel modelling and mapping
> Limited knowledge on future
ecosystems’ responses to
changing climate, fire and
land-use conditions within
and beyond fire prone areas
prevents efficient ecosystem-
based management
> Incorporate ecology principles into
landscape planning and fire
management plans more actively,
distinguishing between fire dependent
and fire sensitive ecosystems
> Develop a shared view of priorities
for natural stakes (e.g. map of soil
erosion risk)
> Assessment of the variability of species’
regeneration niche across the distribution range
> Need to understand ecosystems’ vulnerability
and potential to adapt to changes in climate
and fire regime
> Identify thresholds of change and tipping points
in ecosystem regeneration, taking into account
climate trends and past land-use/management
> The lack of central databases
with harmonised information
on single fire events (e.g. data
on fire perimeters, loss and
damage) limits research
> Incorporate knowledge on how spatial
and temporal fire patterns shape
ecosystem resilience in landscape
> Integration of multiple disturbance
processes into forest dynamic models
for decision support
> Analysis of historical spatio-temporal
characteristics of fires is needed to understand
the trends in fire regimes and associated risk
> Development of methods to map and explain
the variations in fire severity during a fire event
would allow for better impact assessment
and identification of restoration needs
> Further research is needed on the
socioeconomic drivers of fire ignition
> Limited understanding of the
influence of socioeconomic
aspects on fire risk
> Need to assess the various
population responses to
particular fire policies
> Perceptions of fire risk and
fire use are often in conflict
among social groups, which
prevents successful
community-based integrated
fire management
> Participatory planning and opinion
pools can be useful methods to
evaluate the general public’s
acceptance of a given fire
management policy in different regions
> Educational and awareness campaigns
explaining the social, environmental
and economic benefits of a specific
management approach (and its
associated risks) can foster its
successful implementation
> Understanding the interaction between
socioeconomic, ecological and climate factors
in determining the vulnerability of communities
to extreme wildfire events
> Assessing how policies and management
decisions impact fire activity, especially in
the WUI
> Identification of adaptation and development
pathways which favour fire resilient landscapes
> Understanding how social values and attitudes
of vulnerable groups in highly hazardous areas
can be addressed by policies
> Applicability of fire models is
limited due to uncertainties in
climate projections and spatial
and temporal resolution issues
> Projections of future changes in
fire danger can be used to design
adaptation plans to mitigate the impact
of climate change on forest fires
> Adaptation needs can already be
assessed for the next few decades
> Fire risk models based on climate scenarios
need to incorporate other factors such as
landscape fragmentation, spatial distribution
of ignition and suppression capacities to make
them more realistic.
> Ecosystem response to fire under extreme
meteorological conditions is not well known.
Fire behaviourFire ecologyFire spatial and
temporal patterns
Social aspectsClimate change
Research & Innovation Projects for Policy
Barriers Incentives Research needs
> Need for context-specific
analyses of the weather/
climate influence on future
fire regimes
> Development of long-term weather
forecast (including seasonal forecast)
to anticipate seasonal fire severity
and guide strategic fire prevention
> Fire danger forecasting should
consider ecosystem functioning to
design adaptation strategies
> The relatively new phenomenon of large, very
intense fires in many regions has created an
urgent need for new knowledge on how they
are generated, what their consequences and
costs (financial, social and environmental)
are and what the required mix of firefighting
approaches is
> Limited uptake of scientific
knowledge by policy and
management actors to
address fuel management
under future climate/land-use
> Lack of guidance for fuel-
management protocols at
the EU level, including the use
of prescribed burning
> Use of fire as a management
tool is limited because of
liability and casualty risks
and little tolerance for
management errors
> Create financial incentives to
encourage ‘fire safe’ development
in WUI/RUI areas at risk
> Promotion of residual forestry biomass
exploitation through policy incentives
targeted at private owners (e.g.
markets for forest biomass residues
and other low-value forest products)
> Foster public support for proactive
use of prescribed fires to optimise
biomass reduction
> Fire risk indices need to be harmonised and
take into account the specificities of EU regions
> New approaches for long-term biomass
management should be developed, taking into
account historical land uses and fire regimes
> More research is needed on the effects of
prescribed burning on forest ecosystems in
order to improve operational effectiveness
> New tools based on cost–benefit analyses
should be developed for the evaluation of fire
prevention practices, including the use of
biomass for energy.
> Develop 3D fire models to test improved design
of vegetation treatments on fuel breaks
> Lack of involvement of local
stakeholders in prevention
> Limited awareness of forest
fire risk among vulnerable
> Cooperative solutions to
improve preparedness are
hindered by cultural,
institutional and legislative
> Strengthening the European dimension
of cooperative solutions between
management agencies at the national
level and between regions and
> Need to improve methods for informing the
general public about the causes and impacts
(financial, social and environmental) of extreme
wildfire events and which prevention and
suppression resources are needed
> Need to better understand the effectiveness
of public warning systems
> Enhance cooperation and coordination between
Member States in developing common wildfire
training systems through the Union Civil
Protection Mechanism
> Barriers lie in the
understanding by national/
local agencies and acceptance
by the general public of new
fire management approaches
> Lack of adequate regulations
on urban development
planning in interface areas
> Promote education and training on
wildfire risk in WUI areas to local
> Better communication on science-
based recommendations for disaster-
risk management in the WUI to
support management actions
> Foster the involvement of local
communities in the design and
planning of prevention actions
> Adapt safety rules regarding building
> Improve knowledge on wildfire occurrence and
behaviour in WUI areas, in particular with
respect to land-use fragmentation and climate
> Develop guidance on the use of fire resistant
materials for housing construction in the WUI
> Develop innovative firefighting and safety
techniques at the WUI
> Provide guidance for best prevention and
emergency management
> Need to assess the effects of improved buffer
zone design on mitigating fire impact on assets
Fire meteorology
and fire danger rating
Fuel managementPreparednessWildland–urban interface
FOREST FIRES Sparking firesmart policies in the EU
Barriers Incentives Research needs
> Technology transfer to
practitioners is limited due
to the cost of investment
> The rate of false alarms in the
detection of fire ignition is high
> Space detection does not
currently meet the
requirements for the rapid
detection of fires; in addition
the use of drones has
> Extend the use of land, aerial and
space detection to areas of interest
(e.g. cultural heritage sites)
> Develop multi-agency investigation
teams to improve knowledge of
ignition causes
> Need to better understand the causes of
the high rate of false alarms by detection
> Improve the reliability of networks of
fire detection systems
> Define standards for the operational
requirements of fire detection systems
(e.g. minimum size of the fire detected,
delay time, false alarm rate)
Land, aerial and
space detection
Barriers Incentives Research needs
> Limited translation of remote-
sensing information to the
planning of prevention and
post-fire management
> Lack of incorporation of
fire ecology principles in
conservation and land-
management policies
> Use of vegetation phenology indicators
to monitor post-fire recovery of
> Promote testing/validation of new
remote-sensing tools and methods
by forest managers
> Encourage land planners to use
satellite-based sources of information
> Make forest managers aware of the
usefulness of 3D damage assessment
tools, damage severity indices and
vegetation recovery maps
> Identify thresholds below which plant-
community integrity cannot be sustained
> Improve the understanding of ecosystems’
vulnerability to various fire recurrences and
> Need to incorporate direct environmental losses
(e.g. wood, forest area, infrastructures) and
indirect losses (e.g. air quality, biodiversity, etc.)
into the economic assessment of fire damage
> Current lack of monitoring
and evaluation of post-fire
restoration projects
> Limited information on
the potential of post-fire
management actions to avoid
secondary damage in the
short term
> Guidance for efficient and
context-specific restoration
planning and design in fire
prone areas
> Investing in the protection of fire
sensitive habitats from permanent
degradation and in the restoration
of forestry potential after fires
> Pilot and demonstration projects
would help the adoption of available
scientific innovations
> Stimulate the incorporation of new
restoration treatments into
management protocols
> Need to identify the role of ecological
processes, e.g. germination, involved in
post-fire community recovery
> Improve knowledge on species’ acclimation
capacity to new fire regimes, increased drought
and climate change
> Incorporate the landscape dimension into
post-fire restoration projects with a view to
improving biodiversity and producing more fire
resilient landscapes
Damage and
loss assessment
Research & Innovation Projects for Policy
Barriers Incentives Research needs
> Applicability of new
firefighting techniques and
equipment requires further
testing and validation
> The level of acceptance and
integration of new methods
and tools varies between
civil-protection stakeholders
> The market for firefighting
products and associated
training is underdeveloped
and not easily accessible
> Safety laws do not
systematically consider new
firefighting products and
techniques due to liability
issues, for example
> Provide better guidance on the
application and risks/benefits of
firefighting techniques (e.g. use of
suppression fire)
> Improve the allocation of firefighting
resources and decision-making
capacities using reliable estimates of
firefighting effectiveness
> Generalise post-fire reviews to feed
a lessons-learned information system
> Need to evaluate firefighting techniques/
equipment effectiveness in real conditions
> Improve knowledge on the temperature
resistance of firefighting materials
> Need for coherence between aircraft and
drone navigation and aeronautic legislation
> Low degree of acceptance of
new proposals for evacuation
strategies or safety measures
in general
> Negative perception of forest
fires and public objections to
particular land-management
practices (e.g. prescribed
> Outdated protocols for fire
safety in relation to risks
emerging from extreme
wildfire events
> Monitor the progress and evaluate
the efficiency of safety measures
> Encourage the exchange of good
practices on fire prevention, fire safety
and training
> Make substantial efforts to educate
the public about the inevitability of
fire and its ecological benefits
> Research should address the long-lasting social
and health impacts of forest fires to better
educate vulnerable groups, including firefighters
> Need for updated guidelines or procedures on
how citizens should equip themselves for
emergencies involving extreme fire events
> Lack of involvement of local
stakeholders in prevention
> Limited awareness of forest
fire risk among vulnerable
> Cooperative solutions to
improve preparedness are
hindered by cultural,
institutional and legislative
> Demonstrate the added value and
applicability of the tools, e.g. simulation
tools for training fire managers
> Promote planning and decision-making
tools that are tailored to particular
safety, prevention and firefighting
> Improve the transferability and uptake
of tools to ensure up-to-date and
harmonised guidance for operations
> Support the efforts of first-responder
teams in the management of multi-
casualty incidents
> Improve predictions of wildfire propagation
and real-time risk analysis by considering the
variability of wind speed and direction, humidity
and fuel moisture influencing weather forecasts
> Improve accuracy in fire detection systems
and usability of the tools by crisis managers
by using multispectral images with multiple
time series
> Demonstrate the applicability and multiple
benefits of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)
Firefighting techniques
Fire safety
Technological tools
FOREST FIRES Sparking firesmart policies in the EU
Integrated Fire
Barriers Incentives Research needs
> Government fire agencies
often focus solely on fire
protection without considering
ecological and social concepts
in designing fire management
> Lack of social and political
involvement in the design and
implementation of effective
risk governance
> Limited social acceptance
of new fire and land
management practices calls
for better education about fire
behaviour and fire ecology
> Low profitability of wood-
based products and
fragmented ownership prevent
sustainable forest
management by private
> Develop new awareness-raising
methods to overcome attitude and
behavioural barriers
> Further develop the multifunctionality
of forests by supporting forests’
economic, recreational and amenity
value chains
> Promote wildfire protection strategies
that deal effectively with both
beneficial fires and detrimental fires
> Empower local communities with the
incentives, tools, information and skills
to recognise the benefits of integrated
fire management and to apply it
> Promote incentive programmes for
sustainable fuel management such
as payment for ecological services
> Foster a multi-risk approach in forest
management to account for other
biotic and abiotic disturbances (e.g.
insects, wind storms, droughts)
> Improve understanding on how an ecosystem
responds positively or negatively to fire
> Document and promote the beneficial aspects
of prescribed fire use and develop the
knowledge, capacity and technology to apply
fire safely where needed
> Develop and implement adequate and cost-
effective detection, prediction and response
tools and procedures to respond to extreme
wildfire events
> Develop flexible fire management plans and
policies that account for the differences in
regional contexts across the EU
Integrated fire management
Research & Innovation Projects for Policy
Project acronym Financial
instrument Project name and websites
AF3 FP7 Advanced forest firefighting
ANSFR Civil Protection Accidental, natural and social fire risk
2008_ansfr_recommendations_en.pdf (recommendations)
> (presentation)
Arcfuel LIFE Mediterranean fuel maps geodatabase for wildland and forest fire safety
> (award)
LIFE Contribution of forest biomass generated in the prevention of forest fires
in the EU energy strategy
fuseaction=search.dspPage&n_proj_id=3653&docType=pdf (description)
DECATASTROPHIZE Civil Protection Use of SDSS and MCDA to prepare for disasters or plan for multiple hazards
DEMORGEST LIFE Cost-efficient integration of megafire prevention into forest management
in the Mediterranean
?fuseaction=search.dspPage&n_proj_id=4818 (description)
cpf_projectes_europeus/cpf_life_demorgest/ (website)
Under Horizon 2020, the ‘programmatic’ responsibilities
on ‘forest fires’ are shared between SC2 (Section 2.1.4
in the specific programme) and SC5 (Section 5.2.3), with
the latter more from a monitoring and risk-manage-
ment perspective and the former more from an ecosys-
tem-resilience and restoration perspective.
For the last programming cycle under Horizon 2020,
both SC2 and SC5 have earmarked funding for 2020 for
relevant topics, as follows:
> SC2: LC-RUR-11-2019-2020: Sustainable wood value
chains, B. [2020] resilient forest systems,
> SC5: LC-CLA-15-2020: Forest fire risk reduction:
towards an integrated fire management approach in
the E.U.
A sharp gradient exists from southern Europe to northern
Europe, in terms of contributing and causing factors, fire
frequency and area burned, and fire behaviour. Neverthe-
less, there is growing evidence to suggest that changes
in species’ niche dynamics, due to climate change and
anthropogenic intervention, have implications for the
expansion of the fire prone area towards forested areas
which have not previously been known to be susceptible
to forest fires. This will become one of the major chal-
lenges of sustainable forest management in future dec-
ades, especially in light of efforts to mitigate green-
house-gas emissions through forests’ sequestration of
carbon. Implications for forest-adaptation practices will
be instrumental in reducing fire proneness.
With this background in mind, it can be seen that tack-
ling forest fires effectively will require a joint effort at
regional, national and EU levels, and by employing
a variety of policies and funding sources, going well
beyond R & I policy. Future R & I will contribute to gen-
erating the knowledge, tools, capacity and guidance
required to underpin an integrated fire management
strategy that promotes holistic landscape and forest
management and considers interaction among all
phases of the wildfire management process. The pro-
motion of the concept of integrated fire management
and its applications by Member States may be the way
forward with a view to tackling the global EU wildfire
FOREST FIRES Sparking firesmart policies in the EU
Project acronym Financial
instrument Project name and websites
EARLYHUMANIMPACT FP7 How long have human activities been affecting the climate system?
> (final report)
EFIRECOM Civil Protection Efficient fire risk communication for resilient societies
ENERBIOSCRUB LIFE Sustainable management of shrub formations for energy purposes
FILE FP7 Fire interactions with life on earth
(CORDIS final report summary – Marie Curie project)
> (Result in Brief)
> (prof. Claire M. Belcher)
FIREPARADOX FP6 An innovative approach of integrated wildland fire management regulating
the wildfire problem by the wise use of fire: solving the fire paradox
FIREFFICIENT Civil Protection Operational tools for improving efficiency in wildfire risk reduction in EU landscapes
FIRELI FP7 Fire-retardant line hoses for forestry fire fighting applications
> (CORDIS Result in brief)
FIRELIFE LIFE Hungarian forest fire prevention and training programme
FIREROB FP7 Autonomous firefighting robotic vehicle
> (CORDIS Result in Brief)
> (final report summary)
FIRESCAPE H2020 Firescape genomics: predicting plant responses to changing fire regimes
> (individual fellowship)
FIRESENSE FP7 Fire detection and management through a multi-sensor network for the protection
of cultural heritage areas from the risk of fire and extreme weather conditions
> (result in Brief)
> (final report summary)
FORESTERRA FP7 Enhancing forest research in the Mediterranean through improved coordination
and integration
FOSEPOGA Civil Protection Training to manage emergencies in the cross-bordering areas of Galicia and north
of Portugal
fosepoga.pdf (presentation)
FUME FP7 Forest fires under climate, social and economic changes in Europe,
the Mediterranean and other fire affected areas of the world
GRADIENT H2020 Understanding fire, weather and land-cover interaction from long-term terrestrial
observations and satellite data in a north to south transect in Europe and north Africa
MARIE SKŁODOWSKA-CURIE ACTIONSMarie Curie Individual Fellowship project –
HESFIRE H2020 Drivers and projections of global fire activity and intensity under future climate
and societal changes
MSCA-IF-2014-EF – Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowships (IF-EF)
HOLISTIC Instrument for
Adriatic holistic forest fire protection
Research & Innovation Projects for Policy
Project acronym Financial
instrument Project name and websites
INTEGRAL FP7 Future-oriented integrated management of European forest landscapes
14_orazio2014-03_integral_caqsis.v3.pdf (presentation)
MIRTO Civil Protection Minimising forest fires risks for tourists
selected-projects/minimizing-forest fires_en
MONTSERRAT LIFE Integrated silvopastoral management plan: An innovative tool to preserve
biodiversity and prevent wildfires
MOTIVE FP7 Models for adaptive forest management
ODS3F Civil Protection Observation and detection systems for forest fire management
PESETA II JRC Projection of the economic impact of climate change in sectors of the European
Union based on bottom-up analysis
PHOENIX COST action Post-fire forest management in southern Europe
PREDICATE Civil Protection Preventing disasters by capitalising on unmanned aerial systems technology
PREFER FP7 Space-based information support for prevention and recovery of forest fire
emergencies in the Mediterranean area
PROMYLIFE Civil Protection How to better protect my life in major emergencies?
calls_2007_projects/promylife.pdf (presentation)
SCODEV H2020 Scooping device for aerial forest fire suppressant
SMART FIRE BARRIER H2020 Innovative forest fire prevention infrastructure for residential areas,
forestry and critical infrastructures
> (SME project)
> (result in brief)
SPITFIRE Civil Protection Spanish-Portuguese meteorological information system for transboundary
operations in forest fires
WUIWATCH Civil Protection Wildland–urban interface forest fire risk observatory and interest group in Europe
Getting in touch with the EU
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Research and innovation results generated by EU Framework
Programmes play a key role in addressing societal challenges,
strengthening sustainable growth and creating new jobs.
They can also provide solid evidence and the latest knowledge
to inform and improve policymaking. ‘Research and Innovation
Projects for Policy’ is a series of reports exploring this
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on selected issues and challenges in a topical policy area,
highlighting the corresponding pertinent results from
Framework Programmes and concluding with concrete
recommendations for policy actions in Europe
and internationally.
Research and Innovation policy
ISBN 978-92-79-77493-5
... The term 'wildfires' -also known as 'forest fires', 'bushfires' or 'wildland fires' -is commonly used to refer to unwanted fires that burn forests and wildlands [5][6][7]. Extreme fires that have had significant ecological and socioeconomic impacts occurred . A global reference for the destructive power of these catastrophic fires is the disaster that occurred on the now infamous 'Black Saturday' in the small town of Kinglake in the Australian State of Victoria in 2009. ...
... In Europe, approximately 85 per cent of the total burned area of land in France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain is due to wildfires. Recent studies indicate that most of the damage caused by forest fires is due to large fire events, which represent less than 2 per cent of the total number of fires [5]. With the exception of Portugal, there has been a noticeable decrease in the number of fires and the total surface area burned since 1980. ...
... Studies have shown that in many parts of the world, the nature of wildfires is changing [12,13]. Since the 1980s, there has been a decrease in the total burned area in Europe's most affected countries -with the exception of Portugal [5]. The problem lies more in the significant impact of extreme fires. ...
Full-text available
Technical Report
While the COVID-19 crisis is continuing to impact Europe, consuming a majority of attention and resources, other disaster risks still remain. For an increasing area of Europe, weather conditions are contributing to a dangerous wildfire season, exacerbated by a changing risk landscape. The European Science and Technology Group (E-STAG) thematic paper on wildfire aims to explain some key factors of this evolution for understanding the risk, reducing it, and avoiding the serious consequences of wildfires that have heavily impacted Europe in recent years.
... The term 'wildfires' -also known as 'forest fires', 'bushfires' or 'wildland fires' -is commonly used to refer to unwanted fires that burn forests and wildlands [5][6][7]. Extreme fires that have had significant ecological and socioeconomic impacts occurred . A global reference for the destructive power of these catastrophic fires is the disaster that occurred on the now infamous 'Black Saturday' in the small town of Kinglake in the Australian State of Victoria in 2009. ...
... In Europe, approximately 85 per cent of the total burned area of land in France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain is due to wildfires. Recent studies indicate that most of the damage caused by forest fires is due to large fire events, which represent less than 2 per cent of the total number of fires [5]. With the exception of Portugal, there has been a noticeable decrease in the number of fires and the total surface area burned since 1980. ...
... Studies have shown that in many parts of the world, the nature of wildfires is changing [12,13]. Since the 1980s, there has been a decrease in the total burned area in Europe's most affected countries -with the exception of Portugal [5]. The problem lies more in the significant impact of extreme fires. ...
Full-text available
Most of the damage from wildfires is due to extreme events that represent less than 2 per cent of the total number of fires. These events, for which neither ecosystems nor communities are adapted , can have significant socioeconomic and ecological consequences. This is why it is now time to develop appropriate risk reduction strategies and minimize the impacts of large-scale fires. This report demonstrates how climate change, human behaviours and other underlying factors are creating the conditions for more frequent, intense and devastating fires in Europe-now and over the next century. The report also provides authorities with concrete recommendations and examples of good practice. Along with further efforts to combat climate change, this new context requires adapted policies to shift the focus from suppression to prevention, as called by the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, as well as the integration of science into governance, the further use of risk knowledge, and greater awareness among populations of the need for a change in behaviour.
... "Climate-fuelled megafires" have, therefore, gained global attention. Barriers to fire safe societies are recognised by stakeholders such as the EU [6]. The EU highlights the lack of landscape management as a barrier to reduce risk of intensified wildland fires [6]. ...
... Barriers to fire safe societies are recognised by stakeholders such as the EU [6]. The EU highlights the lack of landscape management as a barrier to reduce risk of intensified wildland fires [6]. Large wildland fires 872 by winning a major naval battle at Hafrsfjord. ...
Full-text available
The coastal heathland of Western Europe, dominated by Calluna vulgaris L., was previously maintained by prescribed-burning and grazing to the extent that the Calluna became anthropogenically adapted to regular burning cycles. This 5000-6000-year-old land management practice was essential for local biodiversity and created a vegetation free from major wildland fires. In Norway, recent neglect has, however, caused accumulation of live and dead biomass. Invasion of juniper and Sitka spruce has resulted in limited biodiversity and increasing wildland fire fuels. At the Kringsjå cabin and sheep farm, Haugesund, an area of previous fire safe heathland has been restored through fire-agriculture. Kringsjå is located close to several important Viking Age sites and the Steinsfjellet viewpoint, a popular local tourist destination. The motivation for the present study is to analyse this facility and investigate possibilities for synergies between landscape management and tourism as a route to sustainable transitions. The present study compares restored heathland vegetation with unmanaged heathland at Kringsjå. The potential for activities is also analysed based on the proximity to the tourist attractions in the region. The Kringsjå area demonstrates different vegetation conditions depending on level of afforestation, Calluna heath maintenance, and grazing. Within a few minutes' walk, dense Sitka spruce communities with desert-like forest floor may be compared to native forest floors, Calluna dominated heathland, and grazing fields. It turns out that Kringsjå may become a showcase for resuming prescribed burning and grazing for fire-safe rich landscapes, while offering cultural and historical experiences for all age groups. Moreover, tourism may become a source of income required for supporting ongoing restoration initiatives. To start working on a common vision, preferably aligned with existing "Homeland of the Viking Kings" tourism approach, should be one of the first steps along this path.
... Currently there is no common European policy in place to deal with the hazard of wildfires on multiple levels and across sectors. The European Commission issued a policy report in 2018 titled "Sparking firesmart policies in the EU" (European Union, 2018b). The report focuses on the need for a European wildfire strategy and includes issues already addressed in international initiatives. ...
... Recommendations for policy makers from "Sparking firesmart policies in the EU" Source: EuropeanUnion, 2018b ...
Full-text available
Technical Report
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.
... Forest fires are a dangerous phenomenon that imposes a severe threat to the forested areas. In order to decrease the risk of serious environmental and economic damages and degradation of the natural forest habitat, a variety of early prevention activities as well as plans for a timely reaction are needed (Faivre et al., 2018;Nasi et al., 2002). These include: fire prevention by changing the consciousness of the population (people being the main cause of forest fires) (Hirschberger, 2012), better fire control, increasing the resistance of the assets to a fire (Parisien et al., 2020), relocating resources away from the path of the fire etc. (Al-Dhief et al., 2019). ...
Full-text available
This paper proposes a Fuzzy Logic Controller/ Dijkstra’s Algorithm based software that calculates the most reliable communication link between a WaspmotePlug&Sense Sensor Node and a Meshlium Router in a Wireless Sensor Network (WSN). The algorithm implements the effect of three parameters important for the functioning of the WSN: Waspmote involvement, the received signal strength indicator (RSSI) and the distance of the Waspmotes, for achieving optimal work capability of the system. Due to the inherent weaknesses of the conventionally used Star and Tree topologies which provide a single route with no alternatives on the forwarding of data, the lack of a software or algorithm that would select the optimal route and the fact that signal quality does not necessarily indicate optimal route employment, we propose an application of a Mesh topology along with a Fuzzy Logic Controller/ Dijkstra’s Algorithm based software. Mesh topology allows each controller to be individually connected to at least two Meshlium routers, thus providing an alternative transmission solution in case of damage to certain links between the nodes and selection of a more efficient link for transmission of information. The Fuzzy Logic Controller/ Dijkstra’s Algorithm setup reduces energy consumption of the WSN fire detection system by calculating and determining which routers should start up, instead of all of them working.
... Wildfires represent an increasing threat to people and property in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) worldwide, in particular in the USA, Canada, Australia and the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea [1][2][3]. In Europe, the number of fires has in recent years decreased while the impact of the WUI fires has generally become more severe both with respect to the number of fatalities and the number of lost structures [4]. Recently, this has also been an issue in coastal Norway [5][6][7]. ...
Full-text available
Research highlights: Moisture diffusion coefficients for stems and branches of degenerated Calluna vulgaris L. have been obtained and a mathematical model for the drying process has been developed and validated as an input to future fire danger modeling. Background and objectives: In Norway, several recent wildland–urban interface (WUI) fires have been attributed to climate changes and accumulation of elevated live and dead biomass in degenerated Calluna stands due to changes in agricultural activities, i.e., in particular abandonment of prescribed burning for sheep grazing. Prescribed burning is now being reintroduced in these currently fire prone landscapes. While available wildfire danger rating models fail to predict the rapidly changing fire hazard in such heathlands, there is an increasing need for an adapted fire danger model. The present study aims at determining water diffusion coefficients and develops a numerical model for the drying process, paving the road for future fire danger forecasts and prediction of safe and efficient conditions for prescribed burning. Materials and methods: Test specimens (3–6 mm diameter) of dead Calluna stems and branches were rain wetted 48 hours and subsequently placed in a climate chamber at 20 °C and 50% relative humidity for mass loss recordings during natural convection drying. Based on the diameter and recorded mass versus time, diffusion coefficients were obtained. A numerical model was developed and verified against recoded mass loss. Results: Diffusion coefficients were obtained in the range 1.66–10.4 × 10−11 m2/s. This is quite low and may be explained by the very hard Calluna “wood”. The large span may be explained by different growth conditions, insect attacks and a varying number of years of exposure to the elements after dying. The mathematical model described the drying process well for the specimens with known diffusion coefficient. Conclusions: The established range of diffusion coefficients and the developed model may likely be extended for forecasting moisture content of degenerated Calluna as a proxy for fire danger and/or conditions for efficient and safe prescribed burning. This may help mitigate the emerging fire risk associated with degenerated Calluna stands in a changing climate.
Full-text available
Forest management can be seen as a sequential decision-making problem to determine an optimal scheduling policy, e.g., harvest, thinning, or do-nothing, that can mitigate the risks of wildfire. Markov Decision Processes (MDPs) offer an efficient mathematical framework for optimizing forest management policies. However, computing optimal MDP solutions is computationally challenging for large-scale forests due to the curse of dimensionality, as the total number of forest states grows exponentially with the numbers of stands into which it is discretized. In this work, we propose a Deep Reinforcement Learning (DRL) approach to improve forest management plans that track the forest dynamics in a large area. The approach emphasizes on prevention and mitigation of wildfire risks by determining highly efficient management policies. A large-scale forest model is designed using a spatial MDP that divides the square-matrix forest into equal stands. The model considers the probability of wildfire dependent on the forest timber volume, the flammability, and the directional distribution of the wind using data that reflects the inventory of a typical eucalypt (Eucalyptus globulus Labill) plantation in Portugal. In this spatial MDP, the agent (decision-maker) takes an action at one stand at each step. We use an off-policy actor-critic with experience replay reinforcement learning approach to approximate the MDP optimal policy. In three different case studies, the approach shows good scalability for providing large-scale forest management plans. The results of the expected return value and the computed DRL policy are found identical to the exact optimum MDP solution, when this exact solution is available, i.e., for low dimensional models. DRL is also found to outperform a genetic algorithm (GA) solutions which were used as benchmarks for large-scale model policy.
Full-text available
The Calluna vulgaris L. that dominated coastal heathlands of Western Europe were for millennia managed by regular burning cycles for improved grazing. Most places in Norway this practice has, however, been neglected over the last 5–7 decades, resulting in accumulation of above ground biomass including degenerated Calluna and successional fire-prone species, e.g., native juniper (Juniperus communis) and exotic blacklisted Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis). Today, in dry periods, the heathland represents a fire threat to the increasing number of homes in the wildland–urban interface (WUI), as exemplified by the June 2021 Sotra Island WUI fire. The fire burned 700 ha of encroached heathlands, destroyed three buildings, and threatened settlements. In the present study, the Sotra fire was investigated to understand the fire development and analyse possible risk reducing measures. Photographic material obtained during the fire, weather conditions prior to and during the fire, involved fire fuel, fire spread mechanisms, firefighting response, and possible consequences under slightly changed circumstances were analysed. Compared to previous fires in coastal Norway, the Sotra fire represents a step change in fire development including, e.g., pyrocumulus-like clouds, fire whirls, and fire spread 270 m across a fjord. Preventive measures based on the local context are analysed, including engaging voluntary communities to remove fire-prone fuel, e.g., juniper and Sitka, to create defensible space. Moreover, strategic fire breaks in the terrain, e.g., well-managed heathland strengthening existing fuel breaks, e.g., lakes, cultivated fields, naked rock, and roads, are recommended. Mechanical cutting is suggested as a short-term measure while fenceless grazing may represent a long-term solution to prevent regrowth. During a period of record high energy prices, this may provide free of charge firewood and make way for future local food production, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, while reducing the fire risk.
Full-text available
Eighty-six percent of the largest Portuguese public forest, Leiria National Forest (Mata Nacional de Leiria—MNL), central west, was burned in a wildfire in October 2017. Most of the area was covered by maritime pine stands (Pinus pinaster Aiton) crossed by riparian forests along small-sized streams. This work aims to characterize the post-fire vegetation and evaluate its natural regeneration. Sampling was carried out c. 6 months after the fire in 28 plots distributed at pine stands (3.5 × 3.5 m2) and in 24 plots (5 × 20 m2) at stream channels and riverbanks. These latter surveys were repeated in 2019. Data include the floristic composition and cover data of pine stands and streams, and the number of pine seedlings. Six months after the fire, 60% and 93% of the pre-fire species were observed at streams and pine stands, respectively. Fire severity was not related to differences in flora composition, nor with species richness. Pine seedlings were significantly more abundant in pine stands >60 years old compared to younger (<25 y) stands, but no significant differences were observed in the regeneration of understory. On riparian landscapes, the germination and resprouting of invasive exotic species, such as Acacia sp., created dense vegetation formations with decreased native plant diversity and altered the ecosystem structure. Following large wildfires, such as the one in MNL, managers should prioritize preserving the natural regeneration potential in the soil and aerial seed banks.
Full-text available
Background: Coastal Norwegian heathlands have been regularly managed by burning for about 5000 years. This practice, supporting sustainable herbivore production, did, however, seize in the 1950s and was virtually absent for 60–70 years. Loss of biodiversity, increased fire hazard due to biomass accumulation and loss of visual landscape qualities recently propelled new interest in traditional landscape management. Loss of know-how makes this a dangerous activity. The present study focuses on the emergence and learning processes of a civic group established for resuming prescribed burning in Northern Rogaland in order to possibly assist similar initiatives elsewhere. Methods: Study of written information, interviews with core prescribed burners and participant observation have been undertaken. The topics at four annual prescribed burning seminars, arranged by the studied civic group, have been analyzed. Participant observation at civic group winter meetings, debriefing sessions and field work has also been undertaken. Results: Pioneers who, without guidance, resumed prescribed burning relied on experience gained as part-time firefighters and relations to farming, in particular sheep grazing. Building good relations with local fire brigades and support by local and regional environmental authorities (especially the local agricultural advisory office) enhanced the practice. Short weather window, assembling a big enough burner group on the working days, as well as possible liability issues were identified as challenges. They were self-taught through “learning by doing” and open to new technologies/artifacts, i.e., leaf blowers for fire control. Their use of artifacts, together with supporting the fire brigades during a wildfire, strengthened their group identity. A connection to academia improved the focus on safe and effective prescribed burning through deeper insight into the physical parameters that govern burning in the terrain. Conclusions: The study provides valuable insight into favorable preconditions and possible key personnel for resuming prescribed burning in other areas in Norway and elsewhere. Content and teaching methods for a possible future standardized prescribed heathland burning course are suggested.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.