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Forest fires: Nine member states now have new burned area records

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By Euronews
A forest burns during a wildfire near Altura, eastern Spain, on Friday, Aug. 19, 2022.
A forest burns during a wildfire near Altura, eastern Spain, on Friday, Aug. 19, 2022.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Alberto Saiz   -  

The total area burned during this year's wildfire season reached new records in nine European Union member states, new figure shows.

As of October 1, more than 771,000 hectares had been scorched by forest fires in the 27-country bloc, itself the highest tally observed since records began in 2006, according to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).

Nine countries saw new records. They were Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain. 

For six of them, the records were shattered by large margins because the annual averages recorded between 2006 and 2021 were extremely low.

This is the case of the Czech Republic, where 1,436 hectares were burned this year compared to an average of just 9.06 in the 2006-2021 period — about 160 times higher.

Austria's new record of 1,016 hectares burned is 58 times higher than the 2006-2021 averages, while Slovenia's tally of 388 hectares is 42 times larger.

Spain's new record is by far the largest with 299,635 hectares burned this year compared to an average of 66,965. The country was the most impacted country across the EU.

The bloc's Emergency Response Coordination Centre was activated 11 times over this last wildfire season to provide aerial and/or ground assistance to countries including Albania, the Czech Republic, France, Portugal, Slovenia, and Spain. 

More than 200 European firefighters had meanwhile been pre-positioned in Greece, traditionally a heavily affected country. 

In response to the record-breaking wildfires which were fuelled by a series of heatwaves that started as early as May, the European Commission announced this week that it will invest a further €170 million from the EU budget to reinforce rescEU capacities.

The aim is for the programme, part of the Civil protection mechanism, to have a total of 22 planes and four helicopters spread out across the bloc before summer 2023, up from the 12 firefighting planes and one helicopter at the disposal of struggling member states this year.