In 1998 the number of forest fires and the burned area increased in Bulgaria as compared to the years 1995 – 1997 (Tab.1).
It is obvious that in 1998 the percentage (ca. 0.2%) of the burned area in relation to the countries’ total forested area (approx. 3,600,000 ha) has been the highest for the last four years. Nevertheless, this percentage and the total burned area is still lower than in the years 1993 (17,500 ha = 0.5%) and 1994 (14,254 ha = 0.4 %). These figures have even been the highest for the last 50 years.
Tab.1. Number of forest fires and area burned in Bulgaria during the period 1995 to 1998
In 1998 about 60% (n = 345) of the fires which burned 3,218 ha forested land have an unknown cause. A large number of fires (n = 206) were caused by general negligence and uncontrolled fires that were ignited for field clearing; these fires burned 3,494 ha forested land. A total of 21 fires were set intentionally and burned 224 ha. The authors of these fires could not be detected. Finally, only six forest fires were caused by lightning (n = 31 ha).
The total economic loss of the forest fires amounts to approx. 1.2 million $US. The fires destroyed 82,000 m³ of standing timber, 2,500 m³ of cut timber, 1,670 m³ of fire wood and 2 million trees in plantations.
The highest fire occurrence (n = 357) was registered during the summer season. In spring 122 fires burned, which was the driest season in the year 1998. The dryness was the most accentuated for the last three years.
Forest Fire Characteristics
Forest fires started mostly in coniferous forests (5,510 ha = 80 %), including 603 ha in plantations. Burned deciduous stands summed up to 1,854 ha (20 %), including 304 ha plantations, 251 ha in coppice and 420 ha in deciduous stands degraded previously by grazing.
The most common fire types were ground or surface fires (6,047 ha, n = 475). A total of 105 crown fires were counted burning 920 ha.
The most frequent forest fires were recorded near fields or agricultural lands, recreational areas, routes, etc. where forest plantations were in the vicinity.
Unfortunately there has been no research conducted in the field remote sensing and GIS applications to forest fire management. There have been some studies at the University for Forestry Sciences and at the Forest Research Institute but without any practical application.
Forest fire fighting capacities are still quite primitive and rudimentary. Nowadays, after the political change, it is even difficult to use agricultural planes as initial attack planes since there use has been reduced in the last years. In some cases the National Army is called in for help, when weather conditions deteriorate rendering fire fighting very difficult. The use of aerial water tankers, like CANADAIR, has not yet been considered. In Bulgaria forest fires are still considered as only a minor problem, as, for instance, compared to poaching. The State Forest Service has only one forestry expert who is in charge of forest fire protection in Bulgaria.
26, rue Murphy
BG – 1505 Sofia
Stefan M. Teusan