Europe’s 2019 wildfires already exceed last year’s blazes

(EurActiv, 16 May 2019) Wildfires have burned more land in Europe in the first part of 2019 than in the whole of 2018, according to data by the European Union’s joint research centre (JRC).

At this pace, this year could match 2017’s record as the worst year for fires in Europe, where massive infernos in Italy, Portugal and Spain burned more than 800,000 hectares of land.

According to the JRC, this year’s fire season has started early and has already laid waste to 250,000 hectares of land. In 2018, the total for the year was just 181,000 and the season only really kicked off in June.

Blazes have raged along Spain’s northern coast and in the Pyrenees, while parts of the United Kingdom and large parts of the Balkans have endured wildfires already.

The JRC’s European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) monitored 1,233 fires that burned 30 hectares or more, up to the end of April. That far outstrips the 1,192 fires recorded in 2018 and the ten-year-average of just 115 for this time of the year.

More countries are at risk of wildfires than before, as Germany, Latvia, Sweden and the UK have joined the list of member states that have had to deal with blazes for decades.

Last year, firefighters from across Europe convened in the Arctic Circle under an EU disaster relief scheme, as high temperatures and dry conditions turned parts of Finland and Sweden into tinderboxes.

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EurActiv, 16 May 2019: Europe’s 2019 wildfires already exceed last year’s blazes