Forest fires can cause significant damage that reduces the resilience of ecosystems. Impacts include changes in biodiversity and loss of connectivity, effects on soil and water, air pollution, and economic losses.
Some 80% of forest fires in Europe occur in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and France [Forest Fires in Europe 2014, European Commission]. Data shows that Spain had the most fires and the largest burnt area. Over half of the forest fires in Spain occurred in the north-west of the country.
The 1992 EU Regulation on the protection of forests against fire led to the establishment of the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS). In the fight against forest fires, early detection is critical for reducing response times, along with improved communication and coordination. The response time is directly related to the final burned area. Improving EFFIS will produce a more efficient tool for assessing measures to protect against forest fires and to better understand their causes.
At national level, state and regional prevention and defence plans against forest fires are aimed at minimising their environmental, social and economic damage. In Galicia, objective 5 of working group 4 of the region’s Smart Specialisation Strategy (RIS3) includes the early detection of forest fires, modelling their behaviour and innovation in information transfer to extinguish the fires.
LIFETEC aims to show that it is possible to use existing meteorological radars to detect forest fires at an early stage, thereby improving the usefulness of EFFIS. The project will also test the use of new communication and navigation systems that can improve the management and coordination of agents involved in fire-fighting, reducing their response time and the forest area burned. The project actions will be implemented in the region of Galicia in north-west Spain, and in Arouca, Portugal.
The specific objectives of the project are:
LIFETEC will contribute to the implementation of the EU Regulation on the protection of forests against fire. The system being trialled by this LIFE project has significant scope to be replicated elsewhere.