Huge Wildfire Tamed In Spain: What We Can Do To Mitigate Fires

Emergency jets dropped water over western Spain on June 27th to stop a wildfire that had scorched some 30,000 hectares of land during a heatwave from sparking again, the region’s environmental service says. If estimates are accurate, the fire, which started under the nation’s worst mid-June heatwave in more than 40 years, would have caused the most surface area damage during the previous 20 years, according to data from the Environment Ministry. Even though there are no longer any flames, the service stated in July that ground and air troops were still active. Even as the weather improved, there was still work to be done.

Regional authorities reported that hundreds of people from small villages who fires forced to flee their homes at the end of June were permitted to return as the temperature dropped throughout Spain on June 27th. Footage from a helicopter showed rain falling over the Sierra de la Culebra, a forested mountain region close to Portugal’s border that is famous for housing Iberian wolves.

The risk and size of wildfires have increased significantly over the world as a result of climate change. Temperature, soil moisture, and the availability of trees, bushes, and other possible fuel sources are only a few of the variables which affect the danger of wildfires. All of these elements are strongly related to climatic variability and climate change, either directly or indirectly: for example, climate change accelerates how quickly organic forest materials dry, making it easier for wildfires to burn and spread. As the climate warms and dries, places like Spain face more droughts and a longer fire season, increasing wildfire risk. Land use and forest management also contribute to these risks.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX), a changing climate leads to changes in the frequency, intensity, spatial extent, duration, and timing of extreme weather and climate events. Climate change can also result in unprecedented extreme weather and climate events. As exhibited in the western United States, wildfires are indeed increasing in frequency, duration, and severity. Wildfires are a major source of particulate matter in the air, mainly during the summertime. This particulate matter can make people in the areas affected more likely to develop lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and/or asthma.

Global Forest Watch recorded more than 4.5 million fires greater than one square kilometer in 2019 alone. These flames destroyed ecosystems, populations, and economies in the Amazon, Alaska, Australia, California, Europe, Indonesia, and Russia. Wildfires also destroy animals’ habitats, forcing them to leave forested regions and cross paths with others in the area, including people and domestic animals. This contact risks spreading diseases like COVID-19.

Natural wildfires are essential for the health of the forest ecosystem. However, the primary focus of fire management during the past century has been suppressing fires. This widespread, but ineffective, management strategy interfered with forests’ normal ecologies and encouraged fuels like dry organic matter to build up, making the wildfires that did arise devastating.

More recent forest management practices have started to combine active thinning and a managed natural burn program to better protect the wilderness. By using fire-resistant design elements and materials in construction, increasing funding for firefighting and fire prevention, and clearing fuels like dead trees from at-risk forests, communities, builders, homeowners, and forest managers can lessen the chance and effects of wildfires. To lessen erosion, restrict flooding, and minimize habitat destruction, there should be a greater emphasis at the state level on creating recovery plans before a fire breaks out and putting those plans into action as soon as possible after a fire. The financial costs of proper wildfire management are vastly outweighed by the savings. By shifting focus to planning, prevention, and preparedness for wildfires, governments can minimize the damages fires cause.

Governments can also refocus land use incentives and policies for improved land management and planning. This requires taking steps like getting rid of unjustified incentives for risky behaviour (for example, using fire to clear forest land), defining land tenure rights to prevent careless use of fire, and improving sectoral co-ordination to stop conflicting practices.

Management of wildfires is frequently viewed as an emergency around the world rather than a regular aspect of landscape maintenance. Governments must therefore strike a balance between funding fire suppression efforts and wildfire prevention strategies including cutting fuel loads, returning ecosystems to their natural fire cycles, and educating fire users. They can still use tried-and-true methods for managing fires. In fact, implementing or scaling up techniques like fire monitoring and early detection, fire hazard rating, and asset vulnerability management (through buffer zones and the adoption of regulations and standards, for example), is advisable.

Finally, governments can seek to improve stakeholders’ co-operation and readiness. Numerous parties are involved in managing and responding to wildfires, including local communities, different governmental levels, the commercial sector, and civil society organizations. The establishment of clear roles, duties, and tasks during the planning phase of fire management facilitates efficient co-ordination.

Wildfire prevention measures may not receive as much attention or recognition as suppression efforts. However, the social, economic, and ecological costs of extreme wildfires must be reduced if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the post-2020 biodiversity framework’s objectives.


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