GFMC: Meterological Conditions and Fire in South East Asia

Forest Fires in Southern Europe

05 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:

 click here to enlarge (19 KB) click here to enlarge (19 KB)

Satellite Aqua, August 4, 2003 11.30GMT
Pixel Size 500m, True Color Satellite Terra, August 4, 2003 13.05GMT
Pixel Size 1000m, Bands 721

This images of the fire (marked in red), which is creating a thick plume of smoke, were captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra and Aqua satellite.

Source: MODIS

click here to enlarge (19 KB)

Forest Fires in Central Portugal
Nine people have been killed in forest fires in Portugal, which continue to grow in the dry, hot conditions existing across the country. This image from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite shows dozens of active fires detected by the sensor marked in red. The huge blazes concentrated in central Portugal are billowing a cloud of smoke that blankets most of the northern part of the country. This image was acquired on August 3, 2003.

Source: EO

Fig.3. Fire-weather forecast for Europe

click here to enlarge (19 KB)

click here to enlarge (19 KB)

click here to enlarge (19 KB)




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 fires destroy vast area
05 August 2003

Forest fires are continuing to burn across Portugal, despite the efforts of thousands of firefighters to contain the flames. Nine people have died, and more than 53,000 hectares of land have been destroyed so far in the fires, some of which have been burning for more than a week. The Portuguese Government has declared a national calamity – opening the way to those who have lost property to claim for compensation. The Portuguese firefighters’ association has called on the government to go a step further and declare a national emergency. Strong winds and record high temperatures have fanned the flames, while the dense smoke has limited the use of water-bombing aircraft. Woman is rescued from forest fires

The BBC’s Claire Marshall, in Porto Alegre, says 3,000 firefighters are continuing to do what they can to contain the blazes but many are exhausted. One local villager involved in fighting the blazes told the BBC that no-one had seen fires like this in living memory. Water-carrying planes sent by Italy, Morocco and Spain have dumped hundreds of tonnes of water onto the forests. It seems as if they are helping at least to contain the worst fires, our correspondent adds. “We are facing an exceptional situation,” Prime Minister Jose Durao Barroso said after an emergency Cabinet meeting. “It’s been brought about by absolutely exceptional weather conditions, so we have to respond with exceptional measures.”

European heatwave

The government has pledged more than 110m euros ($124m) in aid for people who have lost their jobs and homes, for farmers who have lost crops and livestock and for local councils to rebuild infrastructure.

Across the border in Spain, the death toll in the extreme heat rose to seven over the weekend. The victims are thought to have died from the effects of the heat. Temperatures in the southern region of Andalucia have risen above 40C (104F), with some towns recording their highest-ever temperatures. Forest fires have continued to burn in Extremadura, a remote region to the north which borders Portugal.

In other parts of Western Europe:

* Technicians doused the Fessenheim nuclear power station near Strasbourg, France, with cold water to prevent it overheating
* Police in the Ile de France region around Paris lowered speed limits from 50 km/h (30 mph) to 30 km/h because of ozone levels in the capital 65% above levels considered safe for humans
* Rail speed restrictions were imposed in the UK amid fears that tracks might buckle in the heat, as weather officials said midweek temperatures could surpass the country’s record of 37.1C (98.8F).
* This year’s wheat harvest in the Czech Republic, already hit by poor winter weather, was predicted to plummet to 2.7m tonnes – down from nearly 4m tonnes last year.

Despite the severity of the fires, the Portuguese prime minister 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.

Officials say it is impossible to estimate how many homes have burned down.

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

Forest fires near Athens
04 August 2003

(AP) On Monday a forest fire in Greece close to the capital Athens destroyed  approximately 4.8 hectares forest land. According to authority data the fire which had already approached  a populated area could be brought under control with a water helicopter. In the evening firefighters in Nea Makri contained a second fire northeast from Athens.

Source: Yahoo Nachrichten

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 declares fire desaster
04 August 2003

Nine people have been killed in Portugal in the last week as a heatwave continues in Europe from Russia to the Iberian Peninsula to Britain. The heat has killed at least 12 people in Spain and Germany and threatens to break national temperature records in France and Britain. Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso said the declaration of a national disaster, approved by the cabinet on Monday, would make more than 100 million euros ($113 million) available in disaster aid. “The situation the country is facing is exceptional, caused by absolutely exceptional climatic conditions,” he said. “That is why we have to act with exceptional measures.” Durao Barroso said Portugal would also seek disaster relief funding from the European Union. More than 2,300 firefighters, mostly volunteers, were tackling 72 blazes in Portugal, which is about one-third forest. Firefighters in Semideiro, a town of 1,500 people about 100 km (65 miles) northeast of Lisbon, battled to keep flames from a blazing pine forest away from houses. With afternoon temperatures reaching 40 C (104 F), they hoped a southerly wind would hold. “If the wind shifts from the south and changes to the north there could be a tragedy, since many towns are at risk,” firefighter Manuel Policarpo told Reuters. Fires in Spain’s Extremadura region, which borders Portugal, and the province of Avila forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes. In Spain’s southern region of Andalucia, seven people have died from the heatwave since Thursday, a spokeswoman for the regional health service said. Most were elderly. Temperatures in the high 30s C (upper 90s F) caused five deaths in the northern German town of Holzminden over the weekend. Construction work on a soccer stadium in Munich was halted on Monday because engineers feared temperatures reaching 36 C (96.8 F) could cause cracks in the structure. In the eastern state of Brandenburg, about 30 hectares (74 acres) of forest were ablaze 60 km (37 miles) south of Berlin, forcing closure of a national road. In France, a spokeswoman for the state weather office said temperatures this week were expected to near the national record of 44 C (111.2 F) set in 1923. In Britain, temperatures threatened to top the 37.1 C (98.8 F) all-time high. Britain’s rail network slapped speed restrictions on a wide range of lines due to risk of rails buckling and warned of extended journey times. Speed limits were cut to 60 miles per hour (100 km) from the more usual 90 or 120 miles per hour and could go even lower. Some 431 fires were raging in Russia. Heavy rain has tamed blazes that devastated swathes of Siberia and the Russian Far East. Firefighters in Croatia battled fires on the Adriatic islands of Brac, Hvar and Bisevo, where temperatures reached 37 C (98.6 F). Blazes have burned an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 hectares (12,500 to 15,000 acres) of pine forests, olive groves and scrubland in southern Croatia since last week.

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:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien