Italy: Forest Fires in Italy 1998 (IFFN No. 21 – September 1999)

Forest Fires in Italy 1998

(IFFN No. 21 – September 1999,p. 60-70)


Between 1 January and 31 December 1998 a total of 31,9540 forest fires occurred in Italy, involving a total area of 155,553 ha, of which 73,017 ha were wooded and 82,536 ha were non-wooded.

As compared to 1997, forest fires worsened greatly, not so much in terms of the number of fires as in terms of the area burned. The area burned in 1998 was 60% higher than the average of the last ten years. The total area struck by forest fires is three times that of 1995 and 1996, despite the increase in defence capabilities. This increase depended largely on the weather conditions: in fact, the summer was the hottest and muggiest of the last six centuries. Compared to the same period, the wooded area affected by fire increased by 4 times during 1998.

Tab.1. Number of forest fires and area burned by fires from 1987 to 1998

Year

Number of fires

Area burned

Wooded
(ha)

Non- wooded
(ha)

Total
(ha)

Average
(ha/fire)

1988

13,558

60,109

126,296

186,405

137

1989

9,669

45,933

49,228

95,161

9.8

1990

14,477

98,410

96,909

195,319

13.5

1991

11,965

30,172

69,688

99,860

8.3

1992

14,641

44,522

61,170

105,692

7.2

1993

14,412

116,378

87,371

203,749

14.1

1994

11,588

47,099

89,235

136,334

11.8

1995

7,378

20,995

27,889

48,884

6.6

1996

9,093

20,329

37,659

57,988

6.4

1997

11,612

62,775

48,455

111,230

9.6

Average

11,875

52,999

72,010

125,009

10.5

1998

9,540

73,017

82,536

155,553

16.3

What is definitely alarming about theses statistic is the average area per fire, which went from 9.6 ha per fire in 1997 to 16.3 ha per fire in 1998. Extending the observation period from January to December, the Regions most affected in terms of the areas struck by fire are consistently Calabria, Sicily, and Sardinia. In Calabria, each fire covered in average 49.2 ha, in Sicily 40 ha, and in Abruzzo 32.2 ha, values clearly over the national average registered in the past 10 years.

Forest fires in the last decade have taken on a specific characteristic in terms of time and space, affecting mainly, during the summer, the Regions of Southern Italy and the Tyrrhenian Coast, and in the winter, the Alpine regions. Also in 1998, climate influenced the winter fires: wind and a lack of precipitation made the vegetation prone to fire.

7 KB8 KB6 KB

Fig.1. Long-term fire statistics of Italy for the period 1970-1998: Annual number of fires (upper), area affected by fire (middle), and average area burned per fire (lower)

 

Tab.2. Forest fires in 1998 by Region

Regions

Number of fires

Area burned by fire

Wooded
(ha)

Non-wooded
(ha)

Total
(ha)

Piedmont

459

2,096

2,224

4,320

Aosta Valley

17

51

13

64

Lombardy

455

3,320

1,430

4.750

Trentino A. A.

102

148

34

182

Veneto

101

454

235

689

Friuli V. G.

118

401

264

665

Liguria

499

3,879

2,118

5,997

Emilia Romagna

207

855

622

1,477

Tuscany

567

3,640

1,040

4,680

Umbria

138

608

346

954

Marches

83

589

85

674

Latium

439

2,746

2,218

4,964

Abruzzo

77

1,407

1,069

2,476

Molise

44

121

375

496

Campania

533

2,150

1,564

3,714

Puglia

345

2,424

1,858

4,282

Basilicata

263

1,362

1,317

2,679

Calabria

1062

17,446

26,537

43,983

Sicily

894

16,543

19,243

35,786

Sardinia

3,137

12,781

19,943

32,724

TOTAL

9,540

73,017

82,536

155,553

 

7 KB

Fig.2. Graphic illustration of wooded area burned in 1998 by Region

 

Tab.3. Forest fires by month

Month

Number of fires

Area burned by fire

Wooded
(ha)

Non-wooded
(ha)

Total
(ha)

January

68

158

149

307

February

647

2,717

2,746

5,463

March

1,045

6,650

3,221

9,871

April

240

930

209

1,139

May

88

263

116

379

June

874

9,448

9,852

19,300

July

2,637

33,471

49,520

82,991

August

2,469

15,459

11,601

27,060

September

1,076

2,306

3,451

5,757

October

117

658

293

951

November

164

521

199

721

December

115

436

1,179

1,615

Total

9,540

73,017

82,536

155,553

 

8 KB

Fig.3. Distribution of the number of forest fires by month during the period 1996-1998

Over the winter period, from January to March, 1,760 fires occurred, while the area struck by fire was equal to 15,641 ha, of which 9,525 ha wooded, over 10% of the wooded area that burned in the entire year of 1998. During the winter, the Regions most affected were, in decreasing order: Liguria, Lombardy, Piedmont, and Tuscany, in terms of total burnt area.

In the summer period, characterised by prolonged drought, very high temperatures, strong winds and touristic mobility, fires were particularly serious: 6,182 fires occurred (65% of the annual total), involving a total area of 115,808 ha (74% of the annual total), of which 51,236 were wooded areas (70% of the annual total).

The Regions most affected were, in decreasing order: Calabria, Sicily, Sardinia, both for the total area struck by fire, and for the wooded areas burnt. Again, Sardinia, Calabria, and Sicily were the Regions that registered the most number of fires in the summer period.

In the summer period, characterised by prolonged drought, very high temperatures, strong winds and touristic mobility, fires were particularly serious: 6,182 fires occurred (65% of the annual total), involving a total area of 115,808 ha (74% of the annual total), of which 51,236 were wooded areas (70% of the annual total).

The Regions most affected were, in decreasing order: Calabria, Sicily, Sardinia, both for the total area struck by fire, and for the wooded areas burnt. Again, Sardinia, Calabria, and Sicily were the Regions that registered the most number of fires in the summer period.

 

it_4_3x.gif (21761 Byte)

it_4_4x.gif (21801 Byte)

Fig.4. Left: Areas at risk of forest fires in the first quarter (1989-1999 period). Right: Areas at risk of forest fires in the third quarter (1989-1999 period).

 

Most fires began on Sundays, confirming the trend of previous years:

Fires by the days of the week (%)

Monday 14,0 Friday 13,6 Tuesday 14,8 Saturday 14,4 Wednesday 13,8 Sunday 15,9 Thursday 13,5    

From the analysis of fires by the size of the area, it comes out that the worst damage caused by fire is due to those fires that struck an area of over 100 ha. Such fires affected 54.2% of the wooded areas burned in 1998. Fires that affected less than 1 ha were 52.1% of the total.

Tab.4. Fires in size of area (%)

Size

1997

1998

Number of fires

Wooded area

Number of fires

Wooded Area

< 1 ha

48.23

1.6

52.09

0.95

1-5 ha

34.8

13.2

30.31

8.07

5-100 ha

16.9

49.1

16.52

36.81

> 100 ha

0.07

36.1

1.08

54.17

The worst fires of 1998 took place, in winter time, in Lombardy and Veneto, and, in summer time, in Calabria and Sicily. In all cases, the average area per fire was extremely high. In Calabria, 17 fires were over 1,500 ha in size on average for each fire.

Tab.5. Number of fires affecting wooded land exceeding 100 ha

Regions

Number of fires

Average area burned per fire

Piedmont

2

370

Lombardy

7

275

Friuli V.G.

1

210

Liguria

7

238

Emilia Romagna

2

235

Tuscany

5

376

Marches

1

225

Latium

2

174

Abruzzo

2

615

Campania

2

345

Puglia

4

175

Calabria

17

1.853

Sicily

31

549

Sardinia

20

827

Total

103

730

The analysis of the percentage incidence of the number of fires by the orographic type of territory shows that 61.9% of fires developed in the hillsides and 30.9% in the mountains (Tab.6).

Tab.6. Percentage incidence of the number of wildfires by orographic type of terrain and by altitude in 1998.

Flat lands

6.4

up to 500 m altitude

53

Hillsides

61.9

from 500 to 1000 m

39.6

Mountains

30.9

from 1000 to 1500 m

6.6

Mountain tops

0.08

over 1500 m

0.8

The majority of fires developed at altitudes under 1000 m a.s.l.: Only 7.4% of all fires occurred on altitudes >1000 m a.s.l.. Conditions of moderate or strong winds favoured the spreading of 50.3% of fires, while conditions of very strong winds affected 1% of fires.

Causes of Fires in 1998

The analysis of the causes of fires in 1998 confirms once again the high incidence of human responsibility for the destruction of wooded areas struck by fires, of which 76.3% is due to deliberate action.

The analysis of accidental causes in 1998 allows us to affirm that most fires that occurred for these reasons were due to agricultural activity, followed by cigarettes and matches, which contributed significantly to the starting of fires. Recreational activities had a modest effect, confirming that civic sense is continuously increasing among citizens.

In order to put out fires, 155,752 interventions were necessary in all of Italy (excluding Sardinia), including forestry personnel, fire brigades, police, armed forces, workers, and volunteers.

Unfortunately, again in 1998, fires took victims. Six people, specifically one worker, one member of the police force, two citizens, and two arsonists died in Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Calabria and Sicily. The wounded amounted to 81, of which 34 were workers and volunteers, 12 were forestry personnel, 13 firemen, 14 from local organisations, and 8 arsonists.

The global evaluation of damages, in terms of wood mass destroyed and costs related to the restoration of forest cover, amounts to approximately 90 billion lire, of which 60 for fires caused deliberately.

Tab.7. Causes of fires in 1998

Causes

Incidences as a percent of the number of forest fires

Incidences as a percent of the total area

Natural

1

0.3

Deliberate

50.7

73.7

Accidental

12.6

8.1

Unknown

35.7

17.9

 

4 KB

Fig.5. Forest fires by causes in 1998

 

Use of Aircraft in Forest Fire Fighting

In 1998, the Unified Aircraft Operations Centre co-ordinated the use of aircraft over 1,400 fires, carrying out 2,787 missions for a total of 6,464 hours of flying time. For the fire-fighting missions co-ordinated by the Unified Aircraft Operations Centre, the following aircraft were uses (Tab.8):

Tab.8. Types of aircraft, flying times, missions and launches involved in fire protection operations in Italy in 1998

Type of aircraft

Hours of flying time in missions

Missions

Launches

AB 204

16:05

5

83

AB 205

141:55

48

774

AB 212

474:29

200

2.608

AB 412

999:17

473

6.334

CH 47

441:12

189

1.459

CL 215

1189:35

387

2.809

CL 415

2047:41

784

9.618

G 222

407:21

387

383

NH 500

746:44

315

6.622

 

The Aircraft Operations Centre of the State Forestry Corps

The Aircraft Operations Centre of the State Forestry Corps, which is involved with its own helicopters in the fight against forest fires, has at its disposal 13 Breda Nardi NH500 helicopters and 9 Agusta Bell 412. The helicopters of the State Forestry Corps operate both in activities of a preventive character and in direct intervention on fires by dropping water from helibuckets.

The helicopter of the State Forestry Corps are also used for the transportation of personnel and fire-fighting equipment, as well as for the co-ordination work of other fire-fighting aircraft sent by the Unified Aircraft Operations Centre of the Civil Protection Forces.

Tab.9. Fire-fighting aircraft missions by regions (total number of missions: 2,787)

Latium

457

Puglia

91

Liguria

368

Umbria

87

Sicily

323

Lombardy

75

Sardinia

321

Veneto

70

Calabria

321

Emilia Romagna

52

Tuscany

203

Marches

47

Abruzzo

129

Piedmont

7

Campania

123

Molise

6

Basilicata

103

Friuli V. G.

5

 

Tab.10. Use of helicopters of the State Forestry Corps in 1998

Activity

AB 412
Helicopter

NH 500
Helicopter

Total

No. of direct interventions

6,640

3,989

10,629

A.I.B. Missions

377

291

668

A.I.B. Flying time

708

573

1,281

A.I.B.: Anti Incendi Boschivi = Anti Forest Fire Mission

 

Tab.11. Activities carried out on fires, by month flying hours

January

5:30

July

427:55

February

43:45

August

530:15

March

136:50

September

80:45

April

38:20

October

1:25

May

November

June

16:10

December

The helicopters of the State Forestry Corps are stationed at the main base of Roma–Urbe Airport and are repositioned over the national territory in high risk periods to reduce as much as possible the time required for intervention against fires.

The European Union Information System on Forest Fires – «The Common Core»

In 1994, the European Commission adopted the 804/94 Regulation, related to the activation of the information system on forest fires. Thanks to this regulation, the survey of a series of data for each fire (the Common Core), is carried out systematically in all the areas that Member States have classified as being at risk.

Currently, the information system The Common Core contains information on over 500,000 forest fires in 319 provinces of the six member states Germany, Spain, France, Italy and Greece for the period of 1985 to 1996.

Tab.12. Detailed composition of the minimum common core of information on forest fires

(a) Date of first alarm

Indication of the local date (day, month, year) on which the official forest-fire protection departments were informed of the outbreak of the fire.

(b) Time of first alarm

Indication of the local time (hour, minutes) at which the official forest-fire protection departments were informed of the outbreak of the fire.

(c) Date of first intervention

Indication of the local date (day, month, year) on which the first intervention units arrived at the scene of the forest fire.

(d) Time of first intervention

Indication of the local time (hour, minutes) at which the first intervention units arrived at the scene of the forest fire.

(e) Date of extinction

Indication of the local date (day, month, year) on which the fire was extinguished, i.e. when the last intervention units left the scene of the forest fire.

(f) Time of extinction

Indication of the local time (hour, minutes) at which the fire was extinguished, i.e. when the last intervention units left the scene of the forest fire.

(g) Location of the outbreak

Indication of the municipality and its successive hierarchical authorities (province or department, region, State) where the outbreak of the fire was reported.

(h) Total area burnt

Indication of the total area swept by the fire and the unit of measurement of the area used.

(i) Breakdown of the area burnt into wooded and non wooded land

Indication of the wooded and non-wooded areas swept by the fire.

(j) Cause of the fire

Indiction of the presumed origin of the fire, subdivided into four categories:

  1. fires of unknown origin
  2. fires of natural origin
  3. fires of accidental origin or due to negligence, i.e.linked to human activities, but without there having been any intention to destroy a forested area
  4. fires of deliberate origin, i.e. linked to the will to destroy a forested area for various reasons

We also have an instrument that provides useful indications of the adoption of forestry strategies for the safe-guarding of forests against fires. This instrument allows us to understand and analyse the phenomenon of fires, to examine the incidence of the actions taken and to highlight the strong and weak points of current defence structures, providing quality indicators for the evaluation of these structures.

The Common Core also provides useful indications for ample international co-operation:

  • for the activation of Resolution No. 3 of the Ministerial Conference of Strasbourg related to the protection of forests in Europe against fires (Strasbourg, 1990), the objective of which is to facilitate and encourage the exchange of information on forest fires as homogenous as possible between the various signatory states, with the intention of jointly promoting and improving preventive measures

  • in the sphere of the activities of the ECE/FAO committee, concerning forestry statistics

  • in the Mediterranean basin, in the context of the work of the CFFSA/CEF/CFPO committee regarding Mediterranean forestry questions “Silva Mediterranea” and the International Centre for Mediterranean Agronomic Studies.

Legal references in the forest fire sector

Law no. 47 of 1 March 1975: “Additional norms for the protection of forests against fires”.
Decree no. 616 of 24 July 1977: “Activation of the delegate from art. 1 of law no. 382 of 22 July 1975.
Law no. 689 of 24 November 1991: Modifications to the penal system”.
Law no. 424 of 4 August 1984: Inclusion of administrative sanctions regarding forest fires defence norms”.
Law no. 431 of 8 August 1985: Converting Decree no. 312/82, “Urgent measures for the safe-guarding of areas of special environmental interest”.
Law no. 752 of 8 November 1966: “Long-term law for the activation of planned intervention in agriculture”.
Law no. 183 of 18 May 1989: “Norms for the reorganisation of soil defence”.
Law no. 225 of 24 February 1992: “Founding of the National Civilian Protection Service”.
Law no. 428 of 29 October 1992: “Urgent measures to confront the risk of fires in protected areas”.
Law no. 497 of 8 August 1994: “Urgent measures to confront forest fires nationally”.
Law no. 339 of 8 August 1995: “Urgent measure to prevent and to confront forest fires nationally”.
Law no. 112 of 31 March 1998: “Transfer of functions and administrative tasks from the State to the Regions and local organisations, in accordance with Law no. 59 of 15 March 1997”.
Law no. 61 of 30 March 1998: “Urgent measures against forest fires.”

 

 

Authors of this report:

Anna Scipioni, Bernardo Gabellini, Franco Caldari, and Roberto Cavalensi
State Forestry Corps, Forest Fire Protection Service & Statistics Office

International Contact:

Franco Cozza
Director, Division III – International Relations
Ministère des Politiques Agricoles
Corpo Forestale di Stato
Via G. Carducci, 5
00187 Rome
ITALY

Fax: ++39-06-481-7690
Tel: ++39-06-485-841
e-mail: div3@corpoforestale.it


Country Notes
IFFN No. 21

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