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September 8, 2022

The cost of Europe’s summer of wildfires

Europe has been devastated by wildfires that burned through thousands of hectares of green space as the continent battled record heatwaves.

By City Monitor Staff

Although both local and national governments put warnings in place, over 95% of wildfires in Europe were caused by human activity according to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS). The fires have caused woodland and forests to burn to the ground, crops to be destroyed and infrastructure to suffer serious damage, not to mention the impact on life.

Europe wildfires
A wildfire near houses in Portugal. (Photo by Paulo MF Pires/Shutterstock)

Using data from the EFFIS, Distrelec has released a study showing the economic impact on some of Europe’s worst-hit countries that suffered wildfires, including the number of hectares lost and the economic impact in terms of cost.

Which countries have been affected by wildfires in Europe?

European countries that have been affected by wildfires include Spain, Romania, Portugal, Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, Greece and the UK.

The first three in that list have seen particularly large areas damaged. In fact, in August, wildfires in Spain caused further alarm when a commuter train became engulfed in flames. The same wildfire in the eastern Valencia region saw firefighters desperately try to contain the blaze as it headed for the municipality of Bejis, north of Valencia city. Thousands were forced to flee their homes and seek shelter elsewhere as the extreme temperatures and long drought made the summer of 2022 one of the worst for wildfires

The EFFIS is reporting Spain has seen 287,971 hectares burned at the time of the report, which is believed to be four and a half times the annual average from 2006 to 2021. The total cost is estimated at €2.975bn. (On average, every hectare of land burned costs around €10,334.)

Spain's bordering neighbour, Portugal, has also been on alert through most of the summer. And the winds driving the Valencia wildfire in August were of particular concern. The two countries have been closely connected with their cause and effect of wildfires. One fire in Portugal was reported to have seen its smoke covering buildings in Madrid, some 400km away. In total, some 100,098 hectares of land has been reported to have been burned throughout Portugal at a cost of €1.034bn.

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Although its troubles created fewer headlines, with regard to the report on wildfires between 2006 and 2021, Romania has actually seen ten times the number of hectares succumb, which is believed to cost the country €1.541bn.

"We are not allowed to end up in the situation of Spain, Greece, France and so on. Our forests are of a different type, there is no danger of having extensive surface fires, but even in these conditions, they can catch fire and spread out," said Tanczos Barna, Romania’s minister of the environment.

[Read more: Is climate change behind the recent spate of wildfires?]

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