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4.3 Northern, Western and Eastern Europe Sub-Region

During the preparation of the global fire report, requests were sent to national agencies or correspondents of Western, Eastern and Northern Europe. Replies were received that covered the following countries: Belarus, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Russian Federation. These reports are included in full length. For other countries brief situation reports are presented based on the regional report “Europe and temperate-boreal Asia“ that was prepared for the "FAO Meeting on Public Policies Affecting Forest Fires", Rome, Italy, 28-30 October 1998 (Goldammer 1999). References published in International Forest Fire News (IFFN) are added.

In the second half of the 1990s, the FAO/ECE/ILO Team of Specialists on Forest Fire initiated a process to establish or improve fire management cooperation in the northern European region, particularly in the Baltic Basin. Major emphasis is therefore given to highlight this regional initiative. It will be followed by the country briefs and the full country reports.

Forest fire management in the Baltic Basin: a concerted regional approach

In the second half of the 1990s, the need has been recognised to create a forest fire forum in the Central-Northern European region where the fire problems are entirely different from the Mediterranean part of Europe. The FAO/ECE Team of Specialists on Forest Fire is promoting a cooperative approach for the nations bordering the Baltic Basin to share fire management expertise and resources.

In September 1996 the FAO/ECE/ILO Team of Specialists on Forest Fire called for a regional Baltic action plan concerning collaboration in forest fire protection and to convene a first regional conference. This proposal was submitted to the government of Poland. The government responded positively and hosted the First Baltic Conference on Forest Fires in Radom-Katowice in May 1998. The meeting was attended by scientists, managers and representatives from administrations of the host country (Poland), the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden), Germany and Russia.

At the conference the establishment of pan-Baltic programs and exchange mechanisms encompassing fire research, fire management training, the use of prescribed fire (in forestry, nature conservation and landscape management) and mutual fire emergency assistance were proposed. The conference participants agreed to develop a concerted regional Baltic Forest Fire Action Plan within the framework of the Baltic 21 Action Programme.

A meeting of the FAO/ECE/ILO Team of Specialists on Forest Fire was held in conjunction with the First Baltic Conference on Forest Fires (Goldammer 1998). At the meeting it was agreed to strengthen regional cooperation in fire management in the Baltic Basin. The team members, which belong to the countries neighbouring the Baltic Sea, hereinafter referred to as Baltic States, will be members of a Baltic Task Force on Forest Fire. It was also agreed that three countries, Belarus, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, will have observer status because they are either directly connected to the Baltic region or share common problems or developments in fire management. The Task Force leader is Finland.

A follow-up process to the conference was agreed upon, starting with a pan-Baltic forest fire exercise BALTEX FIRE 2000 (the Baltic Exercise in Forest Fire Information and Resources Exchange). BALTEX FIRE 2000 was held in Kuopio, Finland (Goldammer 2000, 2001). The results of the meeting were grouped under three topic headings; and general conclusions will direct future cooperation among Baltic countries:

Forest Fire Risk Assessment; Detection and Monitoring of Forest Fires

• There is a need for common understanding and sharing of fire management information in the Baltic region. All Baltic countries should therefore summarise and circulate information on their national fire danger, prevention, detection and suppression systems. This could also be achieved through development of standardised country report forms (templates).

• To develop a general understanding of variation in fire danger/risk that exists across the Region, which would facilitate better transboundary cooperation in terms of both operational fire management and fire research. The fire danger/risk throughout the Baltic Region should be evaluated using a common fire danger system (likely the Canadian FFDRS). Daily fire danger maps would be posted on the GFMC website. Current country systems could still be used. However, a common, over-arching system should be developed, perhaps with the European Forestry Institute taking the lead, with the help of meteorological institutions and country representatives.

• To develop a Baltic Region-wide land cover, vegetation, fuel classification system (or approach) to assist in converting fire danger calculations into prediction of fire behaviour for specific fuel types.

• To develop fire-specific satellite technology (e.g., BIRD and FOCUS of the German Center of Aeronautical and Space Research - DLR) in support of aerial and tower-based detection systems.

Forest Fires and Environment

Due to the broad range of issues and multi-faceted nature of forest fires and the environment, each country should develop a specific Action Plan which contains a list of elements or objectives. For each of the objectives an action plan (descriptive) and an implementation time scale needs to be prepared. The elements of the action plan should be priority ranked.

Transboundary Operational Cooperation in Fire Management, Training and Technical Development

At BALTEX FIRE 2000 the meeting of the FAO/ECE/ILO Fire Team further elaborated on the formation of the INSARAG Fire Group and particularly on the Subgroup Wildland Fire. The BALTEX FIRE 2000 recommendations for INSARAG Europe-Africa include:

Establishment of a Database

For the Europe-Africa Region a database should be developed on the base of circulated questionnaires which include information on:

• Human resources for assessment of fire situations, technical assistance and fire fighting. It was stressed that fire specialists to be selected for deployment to international wildland fire emergency situations should be experienced, or at least trained to work in national to local conditions of the recipient country.

• Equipment: Hardware and software for use in international emergency assistance operations (including national to regional fire equipment warehouses), availability and mobility of equipment (time, space). The need was underscored to observe and improve technical compatibility of equipment.

• Information sources: Provider of data (real-time, near-real time) for fire situations, e.g. fire reconnaissance (from air and space), fire-weather or -danger forecasts, environmental and socio-economic conditions, etc.

International Fire Management Training Courses

The need is recognised to train fire management specialists to be used in international response groups. Training programmes still need to be defined, but should certainly include elements which would prepare these specialists for foreign situations such as the specific conditions of a target nation or region, e.g.:

• Natural fire environment (fuels, fire characteristics, fire behaviour).

• Geographic conditions (topography, water sources).

• Climate and weather (typical fire weather, local particularities such as wind patterns).

• Socio-cultural conditions (land-use systems, fire use, involvement of land users or the public in fire management activities, public response to foreign intervention, limitations of use of advanced technologies).

• Infrastructures and technical facilities (fire fighting resources).

• Policies and administrative settings and policies in place (legal framework, law enforcement, responsibilities of agencies, role and capabilities of NGOs).

• Information sources (provider of national to local real-time or near-real time data needed for fire situations assessments, e.g. aerial and spaceborne fire reconnaissance, fire-weather or fire-danger forecasts).

The training programme should include a link to the UN-OCHA/UNDAC system through which wildland fire specialists would be prepared to become candidate members for UNDAC missions in wildland fire emergencies. International certificates should be issued in order to guarantee the competence and quality of fire management specialists deployed to international tasks. The existing forest fire network organized under the ECE/FAO/ILO Team of Specialists on Forest Fire and the Global Fire Monitoring Centre should be used for further strengthening the regional Baltic and global collaborative processes and coordination efforts.

General Conclusions and follow up

The final discussion of the BALTEX FIRE 2000 plenary and the subsequent meeting of the ECE/FAO/ILO Team of Specialists on Forest Fire and the INSARAG Fire Group fully supported the recommendations of the three Working Groups. The following short- to medium-term steps will be taken:

• Establishment of a special website on the Baltic Region on the Homepage of the GFMC.

• Design of a comprehensive and standardised format of a country profile in which the Baltic Region countries fully describe the basics of their fire situation and the available fire-fighting resources for national, transboundary and international forest firefighting, including contact numbers.

• Distribution of the country profile questionnaire to the governments; subsequent placement of country profiles on the website.

• Establishment of links and extraction of existing open Internet and intranet websites which are currently constructed, e.g. in Finland (fire danger rating system, automatic regional fire detection system), Russia (fire information system), and Germany (GIS-based Fire Information System for the State of Brandenburg: integration of data and information from an automatic ground-based fire detection system, fire danger rating and fire behaviour modelling).

• Publication of the national reports presented at BALTEX FIRE 2000 in the pages of UN-ECE/FAO International Forest Fire News (IFFN).

• Exploration of host countries and conveners for working group activities and the next BALTEX FIRE (possibly 2002).

• Conduct a first INSARAG Wildland Fire short introductory course in 2001. Finland has offered to investigate the possibility to host such a seminar.

At the and of BALTEX FIRE 2000 the meeting of the FAO/ECE/ILO Fire Team further elaborated on the formation of the INSARAG Fire Group and particularly on the Subgroup Wildland Fire. The final format of INSARAG Wildland Fire was submitted to the INSARAG Europe Africa Regional Meeting (Tunisia, November 2000).

Agreements in place

Several agreements on mutual assistance in forest fire management along common national boundaries are active in the Baltic Region:

• Finland - Russia (since 1994).

• Creation of a special emergency unit "Finn-rescue-Forces (FRF)" in Finland to respond to needs outside of Finland. Participating countries include Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Russia and Ukraine.

• A fully automatic system has been developed to detect forest fires in the Baltic region using data from the meteorological NOAA satellites. The system has been developed in Finland and tested in four experiments in Finland and its neighbouring countries of Estonia, Latvia, Russian Karelia, Sweden and Norway.

• Poland - Germany. The Joint Committee for Programming and Monitoring of Transboundary Cooperation between Poland and Germany approved the transboundary project on forest fire prevention, monitoring and control "Euroforst Peitz/Zielona Góra". Funding was granted by the CEC through the funding mechanisms of PHARE (Poland and Hungary Assistance to the Reconstruction of the Economy).

• Nordic countries: Annual forest fire conferences of the government services involved in forest fire management.

TACIS Project ENVRUS-9701 "Improvement in Forest Fire Response System"

The framework for a forest protection project designed by the Federal Forest Service of Russia in the mid-1990s was submitted to the European Commission Directorate DG1a and approved as Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS) Project ENVRUS-9701 (TACIS 2000). The project officially started in 1998 and has a lifetime of two years. The Federal Forest Service of Russia is the beneficiary, and its Central Base for Aerial Forest Fire Protection (Avialesookhrana) is the project partner (see country report for Russia)

Country briefs and country reports

Baltic and Central-Eastern European countries

The fire problem zones in the countries bordering the Southern Baltic Sea (Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland) and Belarus are dominated by pine forests which are favoured by the continental climate. Full country reports are available for Belarus, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, and Lithuania. Most of the territory of the Nordic countries lies within the boreal and hemi-boreal zone. A country report is provided by Finland.

Denmark. With an annually burned area of 38 ha, forest fires constitute a minor problem in Denmark.

Norway. In Norway, the oceanic climate determines the composition and fire hazard of forests. Boreal coniferous forests stretch from the east towards the Scandinavian mountain range and its alpine ecosystems. The coastal area has been classified as a boreonemoral zone characterised by temperate coastal forests. In the south, there are smaller areas in a nemoral zone which today are strongly influenced by human activity. Lightning is frequent in Norway, but high precipitation and prevailing high humidity in the Western and Central parts of the country do not allow ignition by lightning. The highest frequency of natural fires occurs in the boreal forests of the country's eastern lowlands, southwestward to the divide and in the most continental part of central Norway (Mysterud et al. 1998, Mysterud and Bleken 2001). The forested area burned between 1986 and 1996 was 564 ha/year.

Poland. Similar site and forest conditions are more common in Poland where fires predominantly occur in pine forests. The average annual area burned between 1980 and 1996 was 5 170 ha. One of the examples of fire problems in industrially polluted regions is located in Poland. The Rudy Raciborskie Forestry Administration Area includes 17 780 ha of forest (89 percent pine forest) out of which 14 215 ha are in the heavily damaged zone (Zone II). Additionally this area is affected by water table depression due to sandpit exploitation. A large fire in 1992 burned more than 9 000 ha in the superintendency. The complete consumption of the humus layer by fire and the subsequent loss of ash by strong winds together with the pollution impacts led to a severe increase of soil acidity up to <3.0 pH. The rehabilitation of such burned areas will require a complex system of planting, including successive steps from pioneer stands towards a more species-rich terminal stand (Anonymous 1998).

Sweden. Most of the territory of Sweden lies within the boreal and hemiboreal zone, with most of the terrain covered by flammable coniferous trees, ericaceous dwarf-shrubs and mosses. During the mid-1970s fire was not considered a serious problem. The collection of fire statistics was abandoned temporarily in 1975, but resumed in 1992 (Granström 1998). The average area burned between 1992 and 1996 was 2 500 ha/year, with exceptionally high numbers of fires and large areas burned in 1992 and 1994. Most fires are caused by people, directly or indirectly. Investigations reveal that in 1994 arson was assumed to have caused six percent of the fires while lightning accounted for 35 percent of the fires. These are very high figures when compared with statistics for the period 1945-1975.

Western European countries characterised by Atlantic Climate

The western European countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean, the English Channel and the North Sea have less wildfire problems as compared to the Central-Eastern countries of Europe. They only occasionally experience large wildfires.

Belgium. Forest fires in Belgium usually do not exceed 100 ha per year. Extreme years such as 1996 (1 113 ha burned) have driven the 1980-1996 average to 152 ha/year.

Luxembourg. With an average burned forest area of 4 ha/year between 1980 and 1996 Luxembourg is the country with the lowest fire risk in Europe.

Netherlands. In the Netherlands the magnitude of forest fire occurrence is similar to Belgium. In the same period 1980-1996, an average of 172 ha/year of wildfires was recorded.

United Kingdom. Fire statistical data for the United Kingdom show an average annual area burned of 428 ha between 1980 and 1996. A major report on the fire situation in the country will be published in early 2001 (Bruce 2001).

Ireland. During the same period, Ireland experienced wildfires on some 600 ha annually.

The Alps region and Southern/South Eastern European countries

Wildfire risk in the region of the Alps and Southeastern Europe (non-Mediterranean) is determined by the characteristics of either mountain mixed deciduous-conifer forest or lowland broad-leaved forest. Both in Austria (average area burned annually between 1980 and 1996: 105 ha) and in Switzerland (average area burned annually in the same period: 407 ha) a high proportion of forest fires is caused by lightning, mainly in higher elevations. In 1994 in Austria and Switzerland 27 percent and 33 percent, respectively, of all fire starts were caused by lightning.

Switzerland. Forest fires in Switzerland predominantly occur in the southern part, a small region of 4 000 km2 (9.8 percent of the total national area) with a forest cover of 44 percent (176 000 ha). The main fire occurrence is during the dry winter period, but recently also during the summer seasons (Conedera et al. 1996). The southern part of Switzerland is situated in a small basin, closed toward the north and the west (Alps) and open toward the south and the east (Po Valley). The climate, therefore, is characterised by dry and sunny winters with periods of north-foehn (main time of forest fires), occasionally strong snowfalls, wet springs and autumns and by sunny summers with very heavy rainfalls (thunderstorms). The typical vegetation under the climatic conditions in this region are chestnut forests on acid soils, deciduous broad-leaved mixed forests on limestone and beech forests at altitudes between 800 and 1 300 m a.s.l.. The winter fires usually burn as surface fires in the chestnut leaf litter layer. Surface fires of low to medium intensity cause damages to the chestnut tree layer and often lead to severe erosion and land/mudslides involving high damage to infrastructures and private property.

Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovak Republic. The long-term fire statistics of Bulgaria for the period 1980-96 show an average annually burned forest area of ca. 3 000 ha. In the first half of the 1990s large fire years were 1993 (17 500 ha burned) and 1994 (14 254 ha burned) (Kurpanov 2000). There are discrepancies, however, between officially reported numbers to the ECE and otherwise reported figures. For instance, the ECE/FAO statistics for 1996 indicate a total area burned of 2 516 ha, while other sources cite 2 150 ha for the same year (Kurpanov 1998). In 1997, the burned forest area reached 860 ha with a total number of 167 forest fires, most of which burned in May and September. Most of the 133 fires in 1997 that affected 555 ha of forest took place in the South of Bulgaria were the vegetation consists predominantly of conifers. No data are available on the extended fires in Bulgaria during the extreme fire season 2000. During the period 1980-1996 the forest area annually burned in the neighbouring countries reached 512 ha in the Czech Republic, 1 066 ha in Hungary, 244 ha in Romania and 134 ha in the Slovak Republic.


Anonymous. 1998. Forest restitution on the Rudy Raciborskie Superintendency Forestry burned area in 1992. Leaflet prepared for the 1st Baltic Conference on Forest Fire, Poland, May 1998.

Bruce, M.A. 2001. The forest fire situation in the United Kingdom. Int. Forest Fire News 24 (in press).

Conedera, M., Marxer, P., Hoffmann, C., Tinner, W. & Amman, B. 1996. Forest fire research in Switzerland. Part 1: Fire ecology and history research in the Southern part of Switzerland. Int. Forest Fire News 15: 13-21.

Goldammer, J.G. 1998. UN-FAO/ECE/ILO Team of Specialists on Forest Fire. Minutes of the meeting, Warsaw, Poland, 9 May 1998. Int. Forest Fire News 19: 88-93.

Goldammer, J.G. 1999. Public policies affecting forest fires in Europe and boreal/temperate Asia. In: Proceedings. FAO Meeting on Public Policies Affecting Forest Fires, 113-164. FAO Forestry Paper 138.

Goldammer, J.G. 2000. Forest fires in the Baltic Region: national and international issues. Paper presented at the Baltic Exercise for Fire Information and Resources Exchange (BALTEX FIRE 2000), Finland, June 2000. Paper presented at the Baltic Exercise for Fire Information and Resources Exchange (BALTEX FIRE 2000), Finland, June 2000.

Goldammer, J.G. 2001. BALTEX FIRE 2000 (Baltic Exercise for Fire Information and Resources Exchange). Conference Report. Int. Forest Fire News 24 (in press).

Granström, A. 1998. Forest fire and fire management in Sweden. Int. Forest Fire News 18: 75-78.

Kurpanov, Y. 1998. Forest fires in Bulgaria 1997. Int. Forest Fire News 19: 50-51.

Kurpanov, Y. 2000. The 1998 forest fire season. Int. Forest Fire News 22: 19-20

Mysterud, I., Mysterud, I. & Bleken, E. 1998. Forest fires and environmental management in Norway. Int. Forest Fire News 18: 72-75.

Mysterud, I. & Bleken, E. 2001. Norwegian forest fire and environmental management. Int. Forest Fire News 24 (in press)

TACIS 2000. 

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