Global S&T Development Trend Analysis Platform of Resources and Environment
|OBSERVER: Unprecedented mobilisation of Copernicus EMS during the 2021 Mediterranean Wildfire crisis|
|Abstract in English|
OBSERVER: Unprecedented mobilisation of Copernicus EMS during the 2021 Mediterranean Wildfire crisis
In the summer of 2021, drought conditions and unfavourable meteorological conditions contributed to the development of multiple forest fires that ravaged several countries of the Mediterranean basin for over a month.
Since the end of July, the forecasts of the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS) European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) had already predicted the likely development of fires in the Mediterranean Basin. EFFIS had identified Greece, Spain, Italy, France, Cyprus, Turkey, Portugal, Albania and North Macedonia as areas with "extreme fire danger".
The forecasts proved to be reliable, so much so that the aforementioned countries were the most affected during the wildfire crisis. Among the images that everyone will remember are those of the fire on the island of Evia (Greece), the north of which was devoured by flames.
The wildfire crisis in statistics
Thousands of people in the affected countries were evacuated before their homes were ravaged by flames, whilst hundreds of thousands of hectares of vegetation were destroyed. Dozens of people also lost their lives.
According to statistical data from EFFIS, 325,210 hectares were burned (1.4 times the area of Luxembourg) between 22 July and 30 September, an increase of 222% vis-à-vis the 2008 - 2020 reference average.
EU Civil Protection Mechanism response
The magnitude and exceptional simultaneity of the fires prompted Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Albania, Algeria, North Macedonia and Turkey to request fire-fighting support under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (#EUCivPro) managed by DG ECHO, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.
The European Union immediately activated a massive response – the largest ever in terms of deployment of equipment and number of personnel. Sixteen Member States sent assistance to the countries affected by the crisis, deploying a total of 20 aircraft, 3 helicopters, about 1,300 firefighters and more than 290 vehicles.
In Greece alone, 8 aircraft, nearly 1,000 firefighters and more than 200 vehicles were deployed from France, Germany, Poland, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Romania, Austria, Slovakia, Sweden, France, Croatia and Spain.
Copernicus played its part in the EU's response to the crisis, mustering enormous efforts to deliver delineation and damage assessment Rapid Mapping products of fire-affected areas.
The response of the Copernicus Emergency Management Service
As soon as the crisis began, the CEMS Rapid Mapping (RM) was activated to monitor the fires and assess their impact.
Between 31 July and 18 August 2021, the Rapid Mapping (RM) module was activated eighteen times for fires in Albania, Algeria, Greece, Italy, North Macedonia, Portugal and Spain, producing and delivering a record 141 products, often during night or weekend shifts.
The exceptional nature of the crisis in the Mediterranean is reflected in the unusually high number of activations for the Rapid Mapping module (RM). The 18 activations of August 2021 for wildfires, of which 13 ran in parallel, represent about three times the average value (between 5 and 6 activations on average per month) that the module has managed in previous years. The excellent performance of the CEMS Rapid Mapping team was ensured by the coordination between the Directorate-General Joint Research Centre (DG JRC) which is responsible for CEMS, and the industrial consortium producing the maps 24 hours a day, 7 days a week over 7 distributed production centres across Europe.
As part of these CEMS RM activations, maps of fire-affected areas were produced to assess the extent and possible evolution of the fire, as well as to assess in detail the damage to infrastructure and land cover.
Wildfires in Greece
Of the eighteen activations of the CEMS Rapid Mapping module during the crisis, thirteen were triggered by Greece.
For example, it was possible to closely monitor the rapid spread of some of the fires, as well as to determine that the extent of the fires in the northern part of the island of Evia increased from 7,313 ha to 50,909 ha between 5 and 11 August.
In the region of Kabylie, in the north-east of Algeria, more than 100 fires broke out between 10 and 11 August, claiming 65 lives. After a request for assistance via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, France and Spain mobilised 5 aircraft to support local authorities in firefighting activities, and CEMS RM was also activated by DG ECHO. For this activation the outputs were 14 products in total, including monitoring and final assessment of the damage caused by the fire.
Wildfires in Portugal
Portugal was not spared by the 2021 wildfire crisis. The most impactful fire affected Castro Marim in the far south of the country. According to the Grading Product released by CEMS, 5,952 hectares of vegetation (mainly crops and shrubs) were burned.
Wildfires in Spain
On the evening of 14 August a major fire broke out near Navalacruz, in the Avila province of Castilla y León. Due to the strong winds, the fire spread for several days to such an extent that it became the biggest fire to hit Castilla y León since 1984.
According to the analysis performed by CEMS, 22,768 hectares were affected by the fire.
Wildfires in France
On 16 August, a wildfire broke out in south-eastern France near the Riviera resort of Saint Tropez. The fast-moving fire caused thousands of people to be evacuated from their homes or campsites. The fire, classified as the worst in the area since 2003, was only contained after 6 days of intense firefighting operations, and according to RM data 6,977.4 hectares were affected by the blaze (1,534 of forest area and 4,567 of scrubland).
Wildfires in Italy
The Aspromonte National Park in Calabria was heavily affected by multiple fires. Two people died, and more than 2,500 firefighters were mobilised to contain the fires.
Following the creation of 5 Monitoring products during the fire, CEMS delivered a Grading product showing 14,836 ha of affected area, of which 49.5 ha of residential buildings affected and 5,515 ha of valuable forests destroyed.
The Risk and Recovery Mapping contribution
Complementing the Rapid Mapping Module, the CEMS Risk and Recovery Mapping Module (RRM) also played an important role in the wake of the 2021 Mediterranean Wildfire crisis.
RRM was activated seven times for wildfire-related events in Spain between July and September 2021. The wildfires were already extinguished at the time of the requests, consequently, the regional authorities that triggered these CEMS activations through the Spanish Authorised User, requested the activation of the Risk and Recovery STANDARD module.
The RRM activations concerned are: EMSN100 - Wildfires in La Rioja, EMSN101 - Wildfires in Ciudad Real, EMSN102 - Wildfires in Huelva, EMSN106 - Wildfires in Ezcaray, EMSN108 - Wildfires in San Felices de los Gallegos, EMSN109 - Wildfires in Alcaracejos, EMSN110 - Wildfires in Albuquerque.
For these RRM activations, delineation, classification, and impact assessment on assets (building and infrastructures) and population were carried out, providing elements which can be used for damage assessment and police investigations. In total, the areas of interest analysed amount to almost 750 km2, with approximately 5,161 hectares affected. The products from the activations (digital data, report material, overview maps) were produced within the specified 8 to 12 calendar days.
Learn more about CEMS wildfire information with our scientists during our CEMS Week on 25-29 October 2021.
Additional sources of information
Information Bulletin 147: CEMS instruments for information on wildfires
Information Bulletin 146: The Copernicus Emergency Management Service monitors fire events in the Mediterranean region
|Source Platform||The Copernicus Programme|
|admin. OBSERVER: Unprecedented mobilisation of Copernicus EMS during the 2021 Mediterranean Wildfire crisis. 2021.|
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