GFMC: Meterological Conditions and Fire in South East Asia

Forest Fires in Southern Europe

04 August 2003, 09:00

Latest Satellite Images:

Scene of the BIRD satellite showing wildfires of different intensities in the border region between Portugal and Western Spain (Tajo River), on Monday, 4 August 2003, at 12:03 GMT (14:03 local) (3,8 µm channel image with colour-coded fire temperatures). 

Source: German Aerospace Center DLR (BIRD website:


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This image of the fire (marked in red), which is creating a thick plume of smoke, was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite on 03 August 2003.

Source: MODIS

Fig.3. Fire-weather forecast for Europe

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Fire Weather Index (FWI) forecast  for this week (left) and the predicted FWI total for next month (right) for Europe.
(Source: ECPC Fire Weather Index Forecast)

GFMC Media Release (in German, with fire statistical data for the Mediterranean region)

Portugal to declare fire ‘calamity’
04 August 2003  by Alison Roberts In Lisbon

Portugal’s Prime Minister has said his government will formally declare the forest fires raging across the country a public calamity, paving the way for compensation for those who have lost homes and other property. The fires have claimed nine lives in the past few days and destroyed thousands of hectares of forest. Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso made the pledge to declare the fires a public calamity after talking to national fire chiefs on Sunday. The measure is to be approved at an extraordinary cabinet meeting on Monday. But the prime minister again rejected calls for the government to declare a national emergency, noting that emergency plans were in place in the three districts where the worst of the fires were concentrated. Fires are still burning in 15 of the country’s 18 districts and some are still out of control. Officials say it is impossible to estimate how many homes have burned down. With local fire brigades struggling to cope, Portugal has requested help from outside. Two firefighting planes from Italy and five from Morocco came into action on Sunday. Spain, where some of the fires started, also has firefighters helping their Portuguese colleagues. Portugal has also activated a European Union civil defence mechanism aimed at prompting rapid action by member states to supply manpower and equipment

Source: BBC News

Portugal forest fires kill eight
03 August 2003 by Alison Roberts In Lisbon

Fires responsible for the deaths of at least eight people are continuing to rage across Portugal. Authorities say the blazes – which have affected 13 of the 18 districts on the Portuguese mainland- are the worst in living memory. The country has been forced to call in help from abroad. Sunday was another grim day for Portuguese emergency services and residents in the areas ravaged by forest fires. Two further deaths were reported during the morning after four on Saturday, which included one fireman. Portugal’s appeals for help have not gone unheeded. On Sunday, two firefighting planes from Italy and five from Morocco started work, joining the Spanish firefighters that are already on the job. But although temperatures dropped somewhat from Saturday’s 40C, civil defence officials say that did not really help. Forest fires are a regular occurrence in Portugal in the summer but this year, unusually hot dry air and strong winds have combined to make many unmanageable. Thousands of acres have been devastated, particularly in the centre where much of Portugal’s forests are concentrated. Officials say it is impossible to estimate how many homes have burned. The cabinet will hold a meeting on Monday to discuss compensation but, for now, the priority remains fighting fires that are still raging. 

Source: BBC News

Fires on Croatian Adria islands are under control
02 August 2003, 11:15  

Zagreb (dpa) – After a three-day-long operation by fire-brigades the forest and shrub fires on the Croatian Adria islands Brac and Hvar are under control. On Brac the fire is completely under control, the fire on Hvar is dammed, reported the Croatian news agency. Altogether more than 2600 hectares of Pine forests and shrub land in the holiday areas are burned down. The police had arrested several people because of the suspicion on arson.

Fires in Spain and Portugal continued to spread
02 August 2003, 17:48 

 (AFP) With record heat the heavy forest fires in Spain and Portugal continued to spread. In the town Albalate de Zorita lain east of Madrid  1500 houses had to be evacuated . The spread of the fires was additionally kindeld  by extremely hot air flows from Africa. In the southern  Spanish Granada a 36 years old man died at the consequences of a heat stroke, as broadcast reports. Also in Portugal  heavy fires a raging. Near the Southern French Perpignan a fireman who set a blaze was arrested. According to authority data the fire east of Madrid destroyed 2000 hectares forest and shrub land . Also in the central Spanish provinces Cuenca, Estremadura and Avila forest areas were on fire.  In the southern Spanish Sevilla the temperatures rose to 48 °C, in Cordoba to 46 °C and in Madrid to 41°C. Madrid experienced the hottest day for ten years. However in the capital region more than hundred humans had to be treated emergency-medically so far ; with most older people with exhaustion and drainage features. After a request for assistance to the European union on Saturday  few hours later two waterbombers  from Italy  arrived in Portugal for supporting the approximately 1600 firefighters and soldiers  who are fighting against the flames.  All regions in the center of the country are affected for days from the furious fires. Minister of the Interior Antonio Figueiredo Lopez spoke of  “the worst disasters of the past 20 years”. 

Forest fires continue to rage in Portugal and Croatia
01 August 2003

DRAGUIGNAN/LISBON/ZAGREB (dpa). The devastating forest fires continue to terrify people in the South of Europe. In the hinterland of the French Côte d’Azur the wind calms down, so containing flames succeeded to the 700 firefighters in operation. However the situation is still strained: Gusty winds can let the flames blaze up at any time again. President Jacques Chirac threatened with “strictest punishment” becauce fires had been caused “by intention or carelessness”. In the endangered regions person controls were intensified, the authorities arrested several confessing comitters. A 30-year old from Figanières set a blaze because he was not allowed to become a fireman. From all over France more than 1000  fire men are mobilized. Spain and Greece sent accessorily waterbombers. Since beginning of the summer season  in the south of the country 30,000 hectares are burned down so far- the area of the German city Bremen. Five people died. In central Portugal  near the city Oleiros a driver  burned in its car. Before a farmer who was helping the fire crews lost his life. 

On the Croatian Adria islands Brac, Hvar and Bisevo heavy fires started at Wednesday evening. Hundreds of fire fighters were in operation. According to the opinion of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) the governments of the mediterranean countries should invest more money into fire prevention, instead of fighting only the fires. Stricter laws and high punishments for arsonists are necessary.

Source: Frankfurter Rundschau

Forest fires on Croatian islands not yet under control
01 August 2003

Zagreb (dpa) – On the Croatian Adria islands Brac and Hvar  large area forest and shrub fires are raging. As the national television reports, more than 2000 hectares Pine forest and shrub land burned down so far. Firemen from all over Croatia are enforcing their colleagues on the two islands. Also soldiers, policemen and tourists are supporting fire fighting operations. In addition waterbombers are in the use. The fire on the island Bisevo could be brought under control.

Source: Frankfurter Rundschau

Forest fires in Portugal under control
01 August 2003

(AFP) After more than four days and the death of two firefighters  the devastating fires in the North of Portugal for the time being are brought under control.  At least 7000 hectares coniferous forest close Castelo Branco fell the flames  to the victim. 500 firefighters and 240 soldiers from the whole country were further in operation, in order to prevent a new blaze- up at temperatures of nearly 40 degrees Celsius. On Wednesday a 65 year old man was burned during fire-fighting operations. Wednesday evening a pensioner was found dead  in its burned car.

Southern Europe-Overlook
31 July 2003, 08:00

Firefighters are trying to contain the last of the major forest fires which have devastated parts of southern France in recent days, killing five people. But several fresh blazes broke out on Wednesday, including one at Salon-de-Provence, where 17 firefighters were hurt, two seriously. Dry weather and soaring temperatures have led to hundreds of blazes throughout Europe. More than 500 firefighters and 300 soldiers have been fighting forest fires in central Portugal, one of which killed an elderly man as it swept through his home. Temperatures of 40C have hindered the operation, and the flames have charred large areas north-east of the capital, Lisbon. 

Source: BBC News

Forest fires in Portugal 
31 July 2003, 11:48

Lisbon (AP)  A man lost his life in a fire in central Portugal, as the Portuguese press agency Lusa reported on Wednesday. The fire broke out on Sunday and devastated far areas in the proximity of the city Castelo Branco. Temperatures close 40 degrees and strong winds obstructed the fire-fighting operations. More than 500 firefighters, 300 soldiers and nine waterbombers were in use. 

Portugal: Army and fire brigades are fighting against forest fires
30 July  2003, 08:00 

(AFP) Approximately hundred soldiers and more than 250 firemen  fought on Tuesday in northern Portugal against an enormous forest fire. According to fire-brigade information strong winds, high temperatures and the hilly area close Silvares (260 kilometers North of Lisbon) make fire-fighting operations more difficult . Firefighters at ground were supported by four helicopters and six waterbombers. The fire started on Sunday afternoon. Occasionally the telephone and current supply of the town Castelo Branco broke down. Authority representatives assumed arson as a cause of the fire.

Spain: Fires near Madrid 
Wed. 30 July 2003, 11:00 

In Spain due to the persisting glow heat  forest fire risk is increasing. Near the capital Madrid a fire destroyed already hundreds of hectare forest land. Pine and oak forests with high ecological value fell the flames to victim.  The fire started of unknown causes near the artificial lake San Juan in the West of the capital. 
On Thursday during a fire fighting operation near  Lleida in the Northeast of the country a small aircraft crashed into a mountain-slope. The two passengers died.
Since the weekend the temperatures in Spain are increasing slowly. At  the holiday island Mallorca, which had been most strongly affected by the African heat front in the past days, the thermometer climbed again clearly over 30 degrees. Spanish meteorologists assuming this month will be in far parts of the country the hottest June of all times. 

Source: ORF

Italy: Fires in southern Italy- GFMC summery
29 July 2003

Southern  Italy, to which so far the problem of the water scarceness had been saved, is fighting against fires, which caused already enormous damages particularly in Calabria and in the area of Salento in the region Apulia.. Hundreds of hectare shrubland were destroyed. On Saturday also a fire at the slopes of the Vesuvs was extinguished. Several hundred task forces are busy all over Italy with fire-fighting operations.”The high temperatures and the drought endanger the South Italies completely”, said the General Director of the Italian Foresters Society, Giuseppe Di Croce. Most fires are caused by arson.  In addition, heat and strong wind contribute the spread of fires.

For more information look at the media page:  
Media Highlights on Fire, Policies, and Politics

For fire statistics of France : See GFMC statistics page for France:



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