Brussels, 05 Aug 2003
Although some of the forest fires currently raging through Portugal and France are believed to have been started intentionally, the European Commission has developed a system designed to reduce the risk of summer forest fires.
The European forest fire information system (EFFIS), developed jointly by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) and DG Environment, is a pan-European approach to evaluating long term and short term forest fire risks, as well as forest fire damage.
EFFIS uses special indices to evaluate risk, including the fire potential index (FPI), which takes into account the differences between regions as well as dynamic variables such as the vegetation's relative greenness, hydric stress and meteorological conditions. The system also takes into account fairly static factors, such as the forest vegetation type.
The fire risk forecast maps computed by EFFIS are distributed every morning via Internet to the civil protection and forest fire services in the Member States, as well as to the civil protection services of DG Environment. These maps constitute an additional source of information for the Member States and contribute to reinforced international collaboration during forest firefighting campaigns. The early warning mechanisms also help civil protection and forest fire services in EU Member States to prepare their firefighting strategies.
'By coordinating and sharing information between EU Member States, we can greatly reduce the risk of fire devastation, better protect our citizens and preserve our natural habitats,' said EU Research Commissioner, Philippe Busquin.
Forest fires have burned more than 30,000 hectors of land in France and 54,000 in Portugal. A total of 14 people have already lost their lives.
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