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Wildfires the worst on record for EU with more come

Wildfires are uncontrolled fires that occur in nature and are often harshened by climatic conditions. Long dry spells particularly increase the risk of wildfires breaking out, but other factors also have a huge impact, such as rain and wind, vegetation, the layout of the terrain, and forest management practices. Source: Timberbiz

Last year was a record-breaking year, with the largest fires ever experienced in Europe, one of the worst wildfire seasons on record in the EU. Wildfires also severely affected Northern America, as well as many countries in Southern America. Lives were lost, livelihoods destroyed, and many hectares of land burnt all over the world.

Last year, the EU reinforced its rescEU firefighting fleet (firefighting planes and helicopters) as well as pre-positioned hundreds of firefighters for immediate support in forest fires-prone countries.

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism was activated 10 times to respond to wildfires in the Mediterranean, Chile, Bolivia and Canada. In 2024, the same level of response will be maintained.

The fire risk is expected to further increase due to climate change. The season will be increasingly characterised by massive fires that cost lives and burn areas that take longer to fully recover. Between 2007 and 2023, over 16% of all requests for assistance through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism were in response to wildfires.

Wildfires have recently become a pan-European concern. In 2022, although France, Spain and Portugal were particularly hit, major fires also took place in Czechia, Germany, Greece, and Slovenia, to name a few.

In total, 20 EU Member States recorded more burned areas than average in 2022.

The wildfire risk expanded to areas that have not previously been exposed, moving well beyond the Mediterranean region. This causes huge societal, environmental, climate and economic losses across Europe.

In 2023 the EU’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) channelled assistance to Albania, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Cyprus and Greece and Tunisia.

Furthermore, the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (EMS) regularly produces satellite maps on demand to help national authorities respond to wildfires. In the same year, Copernicus has been activated 25 times for wildfires across the globe.

In 2023, both the number of fires and the EU’s annual burnt area were above average.