First Bloemendaal Round Table

Fire Management in Nationaal Park Zuid Kennemerland and Adjoining Residential Areas

Bloemendaal, 27-28 February 2022

Introduction: Background and Objectives

The effects of climate change on increasing risk of wildfires in the Netherlands and neighboring countries of Central and Western Europe have become apparent. In April 2020, the largest wildfire in Dutch history burned around 800 hectares of vegetation in De Peel near Deurne and required the evacuation of 60 residents. Other wildfires occurred simultaneously nearby, notably near the Limburg village of Herkenbosch, where more than 4000 residents had to be evacuated.

The climate- and weather-related risk of wildfire hazard is aggravated by an increasing risk of accidental ignitions. The attractiveness of nature reserves – such as Nationaal Park Zuid Kennemerland and other conservation areas – to be visited for recreation and other leisure activities is bearing the risk of wildfire starts. Sustainable management of conservation areas is facing dilemmas in decision making: The multiple functions of conservation sites need to be addressed, e.g. safeguarding water catchment, biodiversity protection, terrestrial carbon storage and recreational services – and the risk of wildfires potentially endangering local residents.

The residents of Bloemendaal community, who are living at the edge of Nationaal Park Zuid Kennemerland, are interested to work with local and national authorities and other stakeholders to address an integrated approach of managing the fire risk in the National Park.

The Round Table addressed the concerns of wildfire safety of the residents –and equally safeguarding the multiple functions of Nationaal Park Zuid Kennemerland and will serve in particularly to

  • Exchange the state-of-the-art management of the national park
  • Analyze future-oriented management needs as determined by climate change and evolving requirements of society, with emphasis on wildfire prevention and safety
  • Establish a Task Force, which would address the issue of sustainable management of conservation areas and wildfire safety

27 February 2022: Field visit in Nationaal Park Zuid Kennemerland 

The field visit aimed at surveying:

  • Wildfire hazard of forest stands and open land habitats
  • Current management practices of the National Park
  • Wildfire threats to adjoining residential areas and critical infrastructure

The participants represented:

  • Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC)
  • Bloemendaal Municipality
  • PWN
  • Instituut Fysieke Veiligheid [IFV] (Institute for Physical Safety)
  • Veiligheidsregio Kennemerland
  • Bloemendaal residents

28 February 2022: First Round Table

The Round Table was convened at Bloemendaal City Hall, with participation of:

  • Fire Management in Nature Conservation Areas in Central-Western Europe: History, Current Practices and Future Challenges (GFMC)
  • Impressions of the Field Survey in the National Park Zuid Kennemerland on 27 February 2022(GFMC)
  • Climate adaptation in the dune area (PWN)
  • Fire management challenges in the Netherlands (IFV)
  • Discussion: The way ahead – Establishment of a Task Force / Living Lab

Selected visual impressions of wildfire hazard at Gaaienbos and adjoining residential areas – visual impressions gained at the field visit on 27 February 2022 – the perspective through the eyes of GFMC

Open pine stand with grass layer – highly flammable in winter and spring

More dense pine stand with grass layer and “fuel ladders” – high risk for development of a crown fire

More dense pine stand with grass layer and “fuel ladders” – additionally collapsed and ring-barked trees as natural habitats for endangered species – with higher fuel loads and potential risk of evolving spotting fires (flying embers). The large stems of trees would burn or glow slowly but contribute to an overall hazardous fuel arrangement.

The fence separating the nature reserve and the private residential lands and houses – with unbroken high wildfire risk

Open areas in Nationaal Park Zuid Kennemerland – candidates for fuelbreaks (buffer zones)

Vivid discussion at the Round Table concerning the management of the National Park and Gaaienbos Forest with regard to coordinated approaches of nature conservation, water catchment management and wildfire risk reduction

Historic landscape impressions of wildfire hazard

The following historic photographs and postcards have been identified by Layla Wijsmuller-Vafi and Frank Verveld. The photos reveal that since the early 20th Centurythe formerly open dune landscape has changed. Most houses and lookout points had been erected on bare or low-shrub vegetated dune sites. Following successive bush and tree encroachment, these sites nowadays are covered by forests and subject of high wildfire hazard.

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