An Innovative Approach of Integrated Wildland Fire Management Regulating the Wildfire Problem by the Wise Use of Fire: Solving the Fire Paradox

Fire Paradox is an important project for joint research on forest fires. It has just been accepted by the European Union,should start in early 2006, and will last four years. This project is co-coordinated by the Higher Agronomic Institute at Lisbon, Portugal

This project will have a significant impact on European forestry policy

 The fire paradox is visible on every continent.Humans need fire to regulate the dynamics of natural ecosystems for the benefit of stability and productivity, but uncontrolled use of fire often leads to ecological and humanitarian catastrophes threatening biodiversity or resulting in economic losses and public well-being.

In Europe, a few years later than North America, it became apparent that a systematically implemented policy of fire exclusion in fact often produces the opposite of the desired effect. It aggravates the overall fire risks, due to an increase in the “protected”, accumulating biomass.Based on the experience of a few practitioners and the results of past fire ecology research, the aim of this project is to develop new policies for fire management and forest fire risk reduction, adapted to European constraints. The ambition of participants in the Fire Paradox project to contribute through their research to develop concrete, operable contributions to reduce the social,economic and ecological impacts of large-scale or high-severity forest fires such as occurred in Portugal, Spain and France in 2003 and 2005.

A work programme centered on fire

The aim of this project is to provide the scientificand technical building blocks to “learn to live with fire”.

Fire Paradox examines four components of fire:

  • Prescribed Burning: This fuel reduction technique has already been studied and developed in some European countries. The significant development of this technique in Europe requires not only accompanying research work, including sociological research, but also the development of demonstration tools and specific means adapted to each country.
  • Wildfire Initiation: This is the phase from the outbreak (ignition) of a wildfire to the first intervention by fire-fighting forces. Control of this first link in the chain is particularly important in member states that have put in place a policy that gives priority on fire prevention (by addressing the underlying causes of human-ignited fires), and the initial fire fighting operations (initial attack).
  • Wildfire Spread: Special emphasis is given to a domain in which limited research has been carried out and which are particularly important: flash over, development of a European fire propagation simulator, forest / housing (wildland / residential) interfaces, etc.
  • Backfire: This wildfire suppression technique is not sufficiently used in Europe. To master this technique, it is necessary to work in a co-coordinated manner using experience acquired by present-day operators, backed up by the necessary research.

Equal importance given to research, development and communication

When the Fire Paradox work programme was prepared, it was decided to devote virtually the same amount of work to three “domains”:

  • Research: The focus is on the study of mechanisms in the field of physics, biology and human sciences, either by experimentation or modelling, which make it possible to understand the phenomena taking place
  • Development: A key for the success of technology transfer is to bring together and implement the knowledge acquired by previous research and during the project. Four areas of work are planned: evaluation and risk mapping, development of technological tools, evaluation of real and avoided damage (economic, sociological, environmental, landscape), demonstration of proven methods
  • Dissemination of knowledge: Means of communication techniques adapted to each user group will be developed. This concerns university education and training, vocational training, increasing the awareness of the general public, knowledge transfer to decision-makers (drafting of recommendations).

Within these three domains the actions will strive to focus on innovation, but they will also aim to revive good ideas that already exist,and to call into question ineffective policies and practices.

In addition, specific work will be undertaken in non-sectoral domains that may have an impact on forest fire occurrence: land-use planning (urban development, environment), economic aspects (tourism, Common Agricultural Policy), forestry management, energy policy, climate change, etc.

An opening to sharing experiences from the various geographical regions of Europe

The Fire Paradox consortium includes 32 partners from 12different countries, but concentrates on Mediterranean European countries mostaffected by fires: Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia andalso two Maghreb countries – Tunisia and Morocco.

The programme participants also include international non-governmental organisations, so that it can have an influence both in Northern Europe and in developing countries: European Forest Institute (EFI),Université Méditerranée Avicenna Knowledge Centres, Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) and the Centre International de Hautes Etudes Agronomiques Méditerranéennes (CIEHAM).

Open Positions in institutions participating in FIRE PARDOX 


(currently for members only – but soon with publicly accessible information)

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