Europe — During the two weeks of the month the risk from the forest fire in the EU member countries is increasing,in Portugal and Spain, authorities of the 25-nation block said mainly .
From 31 July to 14 August, mapping of fires larger than 50 ha with satellite imagery indicates an increase of burnt areas from 13,591 to 49,881 ha in Portugal and from 2,241 to 88,473 ha in Galicia Up to 31 July, more than 64,500 ha were burnt by forest fires in the EU, European Commission (EC) said in a statement following the information received from the Member States and compiled by the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), the system developed by the EC to monitor forest fire risk in Europe and provide Member States with early risk warning and damage assessment.
After a rather quiet beginning to the fire season in the Mediterranean Regions, the beginning of August has witnessed a sharp increase in fires and burnt areas, mainly in Galicia (Spain) and in neighbouring Portugal. On the other hand, in Northern Regions of Europe an unusually high fire danger was recorded in spring and early summer.
The figures for 2006 so far are much less than the 610,000 ha (i.e. twice the area of Luxembourg) burnt in 2005, but the fire season is not yet over.
The European Commissions DG Joint Research Centre, which manages EFFIS, produces regular forest fire risk forecasts and burnt area maps, starting early in the year. Fire risk maps are sent daily to the Member States concerned in order to help forecasting fire risk in their countries.
The forecasts for this year show a situation that is in general less critical than 2005. Having said that, in Mediterranean areas (Southern and Western France and Southern Spain), high danger conditions were already prevailing in May. Large fires did occur, but the build up of the fire season in the western Mediterranean regions stopped during the month of June, reducing the fire danger to a normal level.
In July, the fire danger increased following an average trend for the Mediterranean area, with some local peaks, for example in Italy.
Fire risk maps of Northern Europe showed an unusual increase in the risk level during the first half of May with an equally unusual forest fire activity in the Netherlands and Norway.
In mid-June, forest fires were reported in Norway and Ireland. During the month of July, drought and hot conditions prevailed in most of Central and Northern Europe. This was reflected in an increased fire danger level that led to several episodes of fire activity in Austria, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Lithuania, and Sweden.