New tool to provide a harmonized fire risk assessment in the pan-European region

A report resulting from the collaboration between the European Commission and fire specialists from 43 countries has just been published. The report focuses on forest fire risk assessment and provides harmonized data across the pan-European region. This is of particular interest in fire-prone regions, where consistent strategies are needed to prevent damage from wildfires.

As fires rage across the EU and around the world, there is broad consensus that firefighting alone is not the answer when it comes to mitigating the damage by forest fires. To cope with future forest fire danger situations under climate change, it is necessary to focus on preventing forest fires with special attention to good landscape planning, avoiding excessive and continuity of combustible materials in the field, and to protect life and property in fire-prone areas. To this end, forest fire risk assessment is essential.

The first one Pan-European Forest Fire Risk Assessment (WRA) reconciles previous approaches used by different countries, making possible a comparable assessment of forest fire risk between countries and regions in Europe. This harmonized method will help the EU and its Member States to protect lives and their natural environment.

The challenges of fire assessment in all countries

According Jesus San MiguelJRC Wildfires team leader, “While some countries have developed methods to assess wildfire risk, these vary widely in terms of the variables and methodologies used. This is often an obstacle to having an overview of the risk situation at pan-European level and developing regional strategies.

Different fire assessment methods produced for different territories and for specific purposes naturally lead to different regional and national approaches. This diversity can often be a barrier to assessing wildfire risk in some regions, especially in those where cross-border fires affect several countries simultaneously.

The Pan-European Assessment was developed to address this issue and provide an overview of the wildfire risk in the Pan-European region. Using data trends from the past 20 years, it provides insight into structural wildfire risk – low, medium or high – in the present.

A harmonized approach to fire risk assessment in Europe

The WRA is the result of 8 years of collaboration between the European Commission and the Forest Fire Expert Group made up of fire specialists from 43 countries.

It provides a basis for nations to adopt standard practices and cooperative measures, benefiting from new risk assessment indicators, which could complement their national plans.

The risk of forest fire is assessed taking into account vulnerable areas where people, ecological and socio-economic values ​​are exposed to the danger of fire. The risk to human lives is prioritized by classifying areas where people may be exposed to wildfires as high risk.

The multiple benefits of a forest fire risk assessment

The WRA will support EU initiatives such as the Civil Protection Mechanism, the EU Solidarity Fundor the implementation of the Rural Development Regulation to determine which areas may be at medium and high risk of fires, among others.

At the national level, it can help governments and disaster management authorities integrate risk assessment indicators into prevention, mitigation and preparedness plans – which is particularly important for fire-prone countries.

Eventually, other public or private actors involved in fire risk management such as insurance companies can also benefit from the data generated by WRA. The European Commission remains open to collaboration to disseminate the use of the index.

Background

EFFIS (the European Forest Fire Information System) supports the services responsible for the protection of forests against fires in the EU and neighboring countries. At the global level, the Global Forest Fire Information System (GWIS) provides a comprehensive view and assessment of fire regimes and their effects.

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