One of the classic images of countries in southern Europe during the summer months is raging forest fires along the coast.
Now a conference in Brussels is looking at just what causes forest fires in the region and how to improve the co-ordination of fire-fighting policies. Spain is among the worst-hit countries, accounting for one in three forest fires since 1980. It has had almost 360,000 fires. The country hardest hit however, in terms of the number of fires, is Portugal which has had 400,000 over the last 25 years – 38.1 percent of the total. Italy is third with 17.7 percent. France had 7.5 percent. Greece had 2.7 per cent. Spain’s Environment Minister Juan Carlos Merida-Fimia says there is some cause for optimisim. The trend is for fewer fires in Spain. He says statistics show 60 percent spread no more than a hectare. The country had its worst year in 1994 when 26 fires destroyed 200,000 hectares of land.