European Forest Fire report highlights three of the worst fire seasons on record

European Forest Fire report highlights three of the worst fire seasons on record

The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) published the latest edition of its Annual Report on Forest Fires in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa in 2021, highlighting some of the worst fire seasons on record.

It concludes that last year’s fire season was the second worst in the EU territory in terms of burnt area (since records began in 2006), after 2017 when over 10,000 km² had burnt. More than 5,500 km² of land burnt in 2021 – more than twice the size of Luxembourg – with over 1,000 km² burnt within protected Natura 2000 areas, the EU’s reservoir of biodiversity.

The report does not yet cover this year’s fires, which have been deemed even more destructive than the ones in 2021. The annual reports allow having past fire seasons as a reference when analysing preliminary data on the impact of wildfires in the current year.

Looking at previous data, 2022 is looking even worse, which confirms the worrying destructive trend of recent years. In fact, an area covering 8,600 km² has already been burnt this year. This is one of the largest area scorched by wildfires in Europe by the end of October, setting new burnt records in nine EU countries. In total, since the worst fire season on records in 2017, 35,340 km² – an area larger than Belgium – have been scorched by wildfires. About 35% of the total area burnt, more than 11,600 km², was in the Natura 2000 network area.

Although the area burnt by wildfires has been remarkably extensive in 2022, the number of human casualties has been contained thanks to prevention measures implemented by EU Member States and the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM).

In 2021, the EU further strengthened this mechanism’s capacity by increasing aerial firefighting means to assist countries during that fire season. The JRC report highlighted how this support was extensively used during the fires that hit the Mediterranean region in 2021 and in 2022. This stronger capacity is coordinated by the Emergency Response Coordination Centre of the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Office. The Joint Research Centre offers support by providing timely information on fires in progress, helping to deploy EU-funded aerial means where they are most needed.