An integrated approach to extreme wildfires in Europe

Experts from all over Europe join forces to build a more fire-resilient EU. The website of the Horizon2020 project FIRE-RES is now online.

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Photo: FIRE-RES
Photo: FIRE-RES

Extreme Wildfire Events pose a major threat for whole Europe, mainly due to the consequences of climate change. The areas affected by the phenomenon are experiencing fires that break records in terms of burnt area, speed, behaviour and impacts, and places that weren’t hit so far are likely to become fire-prone regions in a few years, experts say.

That’s why the European Commission is investing major resources to come up with new models and approaches to address the problem. Recently, fire-res.eu went online, which was financed within this framework.

FIRE-RES – which stands for “Innovative technologies and socio-ecological-economic solutions for fire resilient territories in Europe” – runs from December 2021 till the end of 2025. Its goal is to make Europe resilient in the face of Extreme Wildfire Events, by developing a stream of innovative actions. All this by taking into account the unfolding of such events on multiple levels, such as a better understanding of extreme wildfires’ behaviour and drivers, their impact on landscape and local economy and communities, while aiming at devising appropriate emergency management strategies and tools that lead to a better governance, society resilience and risk awareness communication.

To do this, 34 innovative actions will be tested throughout 11 small-scale environments called Living Labs, that will take place in a broad gradient of regions across Europe and beyond. They will be located in Nouvelle Aquitaine (France), Bulgaria, Canary Islands (Spain), Catalonia (Spain), Galicia (Spain), Germany-Netherlands, Greece, Norway-Sweden, Portugal, Sardinia (Italy) and Chile. Each of them will see collaborations between the public sector, scientific communities, private companies and citizens’ associations. The strategies and actions implemented on a local or regional level will then be up-scaled in order to make them a governance tool, applicable on a continental level in a wide variety of conditions.

FIRE-RES is expected to help reduce the number of human losses, as well as the negative impacts on buildings, land, ecosystems and health, caused by wildfires in Europe. In doing so, the project will also contribute to achieving the European Union’s targets for 2030.

Behind FIRE-RES is a consortium of 34 partners from 13 countries featuring universities, research centres, emergency-response bodies, tech companies, industry and civil society organisations, coordinated by the Forest Science and Technology Centre of Catalonia, Spain.

The European Forest Institute (EFI) leads the work package “Fast-track-to-innovation and exploitation programme”, which will foster outside-in and inside-out innovation. Outside-in innovation will use Open Innovation Challenge methodology to bring new innovations to the Living Labs to fill in their needs and solve their challenges. The inside-out innovation aims to up-scale, replicate and exploit the FIRE-RES innovative actions. EFI is also responsible for several tasks in other areas of the project. These include the “Screening of innovative resilience-enhancing approaches and best practice value chain solutions”, which will provide an overview of existing innovative resilience-enhancing landscape approaches and bioeconomy value chains that make nature-based solutions financially feasible and attractive for land managers. EFI will also work on “Policy clinics for inclusive and coherent fire-smart risk governance” to identify policy bundles for coherent fire risk governance.

The project has received €19.8m funding from the European Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101037419.