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IP/09/1229

Brussels, 10 August 2009

Forest fire damage in 2009 already higher than in 2008

Estimates from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) show that 200 000 hectares of land in the EU have already burnt in 2009, compared to a total of 180 000 in 2008. EFFIS continuously monitors the forest fire risk, which at present is still high, and has just released the 'Forest Fires in Europe 2008' report providing a comprehensive overview of the forest fire danger conditions and impact of forest fires in Europe for 2008.

EFFIS uses satellite images to produce daily updated maps of areas burnt by forest fires of at least 40 hectares in size. The area of mapped fires corresponds on average to 75% of the total burnt area which includes fires smaller than 40 hectares. The burnt area mapped so far in 2009 in the EU is 150 076 hectares, which corresponds to an estimated total burnt area of about 200 000 hectares.

This year, Spain and Italy have been most affected because of the extreme fire weather conditions in the second half of July, but also France and, to a lesser extent, Greece and Portugal suffered significant damage. Several unusual fire episodes occurred in March in Portugal and North-West Spain where, helped by dry weather conditions and strong winds, an estimated area of about 25 000 hectares was burnt.

During the next few days the fire danger will remain very high in many Mediterranean areas, and locally may result in extreme conditions, but it will not reach the end of July alert levels, according to current forecasts.

Forest fire damage in 2008 lowest on record

With a reported total of 158 621 hectares compared to an annual average of 483 896 hectares, the burnt area and damage assessed in 2008 have been the lowest on record since 1980 for Southern Europe. Last year's favourable meteorological conditions led to low fire danger levels around the Mediterranean with a few exceptions recorded in the South-East where drought conditions and a few extreme fire danger episodes caused a 1 362 hectare fire on the 18 th June in Cyprus, about 15 000 hectares burned in Greece (mostly in Rhodes) in the second half of July and almost 20 000 hectares burned in Turkey in the first week of August.

In other parts of Europe the impact of forest fires was also below the average of the last 15 years with 22 000 hectares compared to an average of 30 000 hectares. Only Scandinavian countries experienced extreme episodes due to unusual drought and high temperatures during the first half of June (a 13 day fire in Sweden burned 1 170 hectares of forest, and a record fire in Norway burned more than 2 700 hectares – the largest fire in the country for the last 50 years).

The “Forest Fires in Europe 2008” report ( http://effis.jrc.ec.europa.eu/reports/fire-reports ) released today is the 9 th report of a series and is produced with the contribution of the forest fire and civil protection services in the Member States and the European countries participating in EFFIS.

EFFIS has been established by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the Directorate General for Environment (DG ENV) of the European Commission and provides daily fire risk warnings and subsequent damage assessments to support forest fire-fighting services in the EU Member States, European Commission services and other organisations in the field.

Further information:

EFFIS: http://effis.jrc.ec.europa.eu

Maps and key data on individual fire size, location and fire danger level can be consulted at http://effis.jrc.ec.europa.eu/current-situation .


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