The Commission’s Joint Research Center presented on Friday the 20th edition of the Annual Report on Forest Fires in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, for 2019.

“In the year with the most disastrous effects of global forest fires in recent history, more than 400,000 hectares (ha) of European natural land have been burned and a record number of protected natural areas have been affected by forest fires,” he said. WHAT THE.

According to the report, climate change has continued to have a negative effect on the duration and intensity of fire hazards in Europe. As early as March, before the “fire season” in most countries, the total area of ​​the EU affected by fires was already higher than the annual average of the last 12 years.

“However, due to better preparedness and a more efficient reaction, the 2019 season has been one of the best so far in terms of preventing accidents and loss of life,” says the EC.

The national report showed that, among the Member States, Spain, Portugal and Poland recorded the highest number of fires in EU countries in 2019;

The report also shows that Romania was, with 73,444 ha of area affected by fires, the country that suffered the greatest damage in protected areas in 2019, according to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).

“Forest fires have severely affected ‘Natura 2000’ protected areas in Europe: 159,585 ha were devastated by fires in 2019 in the EU, and almost half of them were in these extremely important areas for biodiversity. Despite this, the 2019 season was one of the best in terms of preventing accidents and loss of life: “Only three people from the countries included in the 2019 report lost their lives due to forest fires.” the report also shows.

Rapid mapping by the Copernicus emergency management service has been activated 35 times to seek help in order to fight forest fires in 2019, the most annual activations so far.

“For over twenty years, the Joint Research Center has been working with countries across Europe to provide the latest information on forest fire trends, contributing to prevention efforts and mitigating the disastrous impact of outbreaks. fire. Changing weather conditions associated with climate change increase the risk of forest fires all over the world. Scientific knowledge and evidence are essential to take the most effective measures to prevent these fires, protect our forests, conserve biodiversity and protect lives, “said Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, responsible for the Joint Center for Research.

The biodiversity strategy, proposed in May as part of the European Green Pact, provides for actions to improve the health of European forests and strengthen our resilience to forest fires, including the goal of planting at least 3 billion trees by 2030.

“Europeans have seen horrific images of forest fires on the west coast of the United States, in Siberia, Australia and the Amazon region. But the fire also devastated Europe’s forests. Part of the solution that will allow us to avoid such a catastrophic event is to protect and manage our forests so as to reduce their vulnerability to fire, leaving nature to defend themselves, “said the Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries. , Virginijus Sinkevičius.

The EU civil protection mechanism has been activated five times for forest fires and has been modernized through rescEU in 2019, creating a new European reserve that includes firefighting aircraft and helicopters.

“Data and information on the risks of forest fires and their spread are vital, as they help us to prevent and be prepared, but also to react faster and more effectively when disastrous forest fires break out. Thanks to the rescEU and the strengthened EU civil protection mechanism, we are ready to jump to the rescue everywhere in Europe and beyond, ”said crisis management commissioner Janez Lenarčič.

The Commission’s Joint Research Center has made a key contribution to reducing the risks of forest fire disasters in Europe and worldwide, through the development and operation of EFFIS and the Global Forest Fire Information System (GWIS).

Forest fire reports from Europe, the Middle East and North Africa are an incomparable source of information for firefighters and decision-makers in European and neighboring countries. They provide official statistics on the impact of forest fires, reported annually by the administrations responsible for fire management in those countries.