Europe’s landscape ravaged by wildfire

Europe’s landscape ravaged by wildfire

An area equivalent to one-fifth of Belgium has been ravaged by flames across Europe as successive searing heatwaves and a historic drought propel the continent towards what experts say is likely to be a record year for wildfire destruction.

According to data from the European Forest Fire Information System Effis 659,541 hectares, 1.6 m acres of land went up in flames across the continent between January and August, the most at this time of year since records began in 2006.

The figure is 56% higher than the previous record in 2017. Then 420,913 hectares were burned over the same period, and 988,087 were consumed by the end of the year. More than 1 m hectares could be lost this year due to wildfires, according to the current trends.

The situation in terms of drought and extremely high temperatures has affected all Europe this year, and the situation in the region is worrying while we are still in the middle of the fire season, said the Effis coordinator Jes s San-Miguel.

Since 2010, fire seasons in the EU have been mainly driven by countries in the Mediterranean region where fires have been blazing in central and northern countries that normally don't experience fires in their territory, he told Agence France-Presse.

Spain has lost 244,924 hectares of land, followed by Romania 150,528 and Portugal 77,292 More than 60,000 hectares have burned in France, half as much as the 43,600 it lost in the whole of 2019, its previous record.

The figures were released days after the Copernicus atmosphere monitoring service CAMS, which provided satellite data used by Effis last week, warned that much of western Europe was in extreme or very extreme fire danger.

The service said daily total fire radiative power, a measure of the intensity of ongoing blazes, was significantly higher in France, Spain and Portugal than average for July and August, while wildfire emissions broke all records in France and Spain.

The president, Emmanuel Macron, will meet firefighters and officials soon to discuss wildfire strategies after emergency teams succeeded this weekend in controlling a vast fire in the south-western Gironde region.

The Landiras fire, which started last week after destroying 14,000 hectares in July, had burned through another 7,600 hecatares, forcing the evacuation of 10,000 people. But fire crews were still battling blazes in Brittany and the eastern Jura.

Portugal said on Saturday that it had brought a large wildfire under control that had been burning for a week in the Unesco-designated Serra da Estrela natural park, and a blaze on the Czech-German border was also put out over the weekend.

An estimated 8,000 hectares of an estimated 8,000 hectares were destroyed in the province of Zaragoza after a wildfire in north-east Spain was out of control on Sunday, forcing the evacuation of eight villages and 1,500 people.

The total area of land that has burned in wildfires this year is almost four times the country's full-year average of 66,965 hectares since 2006, according to the Effis data.