Hectares burnt by forest fires in the EU, 2017 vs 2008-2016. Source: EFFIS. Graphic: Euronews

By Chris Harris
27 July 2017

(Euronews) – Exclusive: The number of forest fires in the EU has trebled so far this year, according to figures obtained by Euronews, affecting an area nearly the size of Luxembourg.

There have been 677 blazes in 2017 – a huge increase on the 215 the bloc saw annually on average over the previous eight years.

Experts have blamed climate change for the rise, saying it has extended the traditional wildfire season and increased the frequency of blazes.

They have warned Europe’s forest fires will rage more often in the future and engulf new areas.

Portugal, Italy, and Croatia have battled blazes in recent days amid high temperatures and lower-than-normal rainfall.

It comes less than a month since 64 people died in a forest fire in Portugal, with many victims caught in their cars as they tried to flee.

Starting earlier, burning longer

Thomas Curt, a researcher at the National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture, said global warming was a factor in Portugal’s deadly fire and that climate change had extended the wildfire season from two to up to five months.

Alexander Held, a senior expert at the European Forest Institute, backed Curt’s claim saying fires were starting earlier and burning for longer.

“We will see a lot more surprises and fires burning in places that don’t have a fire history,” Held told Euronews. “Spain burns, yes, but it’s not a surprise.

“We’ll see more fires and more intense fires in the Mediterranean and new fire situations in countries that don’t really expect it.”

Held said Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, and Switzerland could be among the countries who see more wildfires than they are used to.

Last year a study led by the University of Leicester revealed Catalonia, Madrid and Valencia as the European areas most at risk of wildfires threatening people. [more]

Climate Change Blamed As EU's Forest Fires Treble In 2017

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