Posts Tagged ‘brushfires’

Portugal is likely to see more massive forest fires

June 19, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Laurence COUSTAL | Heat waves have become more frequent in Portugal, say experts

PARIS (AFP) – Highly exposed to global warming’s climate-altering impacts, Portugal is likely to see more massive forest fires such as the one — still raging — that has killed at least 60 people this weekend, experts say.- Why Portugal, why now? –

The Iberian peninsula encompassing Portugal and Spain is experiencing a warmer, drier June than usual, explains Thomas Curt, a researcher at France’s Irstea climate and agriculture research institute.

Added to that, the country has vast expanses of highly inflammable plants, including forests of pine and eucalyptus trees.

“Hotter air is synonymous with drier and more inflammable vegetation,” said Curt. “The more the mercury climbs, so does the risk of fires and their intensity.”

Temperatures in the region have warmed by more than the global average over the past half century, according to a 2014 review of climate change impacts on Portugal.

Heat waves have become more frequent, and annual rainfall slightly less, said the review published in the journal WIREs Climate Change.

More frequent and pronounced heat waves are expected in future, accompanied by a “substantial increase” in fire risk — “both in severity and in length of the fire season,” it said.

– Does global warming boost forest fire risk? –

“It is certain — we are experiencing a rise in temperatures,” said Curt.

The Northern hemisphere summer has lengthened over the past 50 years from July-to-August, to June-to-October now — meaning a longer fire risk season.

There has been an increase in major fires of more than 100 hectares, and so-called “megafires” of more than 1,000 hectares, the researcher added.

“It is truly a growing problem everywhere in the world, and notably in Mediterranean Europe.”

These mega blazes remain rare — only about 2-3 percent of all fires — but are responsible for about three-quarters of all surface burnt.

“Many analyses of climate change show that these major fires will become more and more likely,” said Curt.

– What to do? –

In the short term, reinforce firefighting capacity, deploy patrols, set up watchtowers to raise the alarm, and ban fire-making everywhere.

Over the longer term, human settlements and green areas will need to be substantially redesigned, experts say.

Some forest will have to be cut back, undergrowth cleared, and residential areas moved further from scrubland and forest borders, to reduce the risk to life and property.

“The focus of efforts should shift from combating forest fires as they arise to preventing them from existing, through responsible long-term forest management,” green group WWF said.

“Responsible forest management is more effective and financially more efficient than financing the giant firefighting mechanisms that are employed every year.”

In the yet longer term, added Curt, “of course, we need to curtail global warming itself.”

by Laurence COUSTAL
Advertisements

Hundreds flee wildfires near Jerusalem

November 25, 2016

AFP

© AFP/File | Israeli authorities evacuated 60,000 people from Haifa because of a spate of wildfires

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Hundreds of people were evacuated from an Israeli village near Jerusalem overnight, police said Friday, as firefighters battled wildfires that have forced tens of thousands to flee around the country.

The evacuations in Beit Meir, a cooperative village of religious Jews, came after 60,000 people in Israel’s third-largest city Haifa were moved to safety on Thursday because of a spate of fires.

“All the Beit Meir area has been evacuated — several hundred people, maybe 400,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.

Rosenfeld said that a suspect had been arrested in connection with the blaze, but did not elaborate.

Police have arrested a number of people in connection with the fires across the country.

Some are suspected of criminal negligence leading to accidental fires in tinder-dry woodland and undergrowth, while there are also suspicions that some may have been deliberate and related to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Police on Friday morning reported the outbreak of a new fire near the southern town of Kiryat Gat.

In the north, thousands of residents of the mixed Jewish-Arab coastal city of Haifa spent the night in temporary accommodation.

The Haifa fires were “under control” on Friday morning, Rosenfeld said, but he cautioned that “things can change and develop as we speak.”

Firefighters and rescue services say strong and changeable winds make developments hard to predict.

“At the moment, (Haifa) residents who were evacuated from their homes are not allowed to go back,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri said in a statement.

Entire neighbourhoods of the port city have been evacuated, along with Haifa University and local prisons.

Meteorologists say a long dry summer and so-far rainless autumn have brought about ideal conditions for fires to spread — whether sparked by accident or on purpose.

Related:

Bushfires rage on in Israel, Haifa blaze overcome

November 25, 2016

The Associated Press and AFP

© Ahmad Gharabli, AFP | An Israeli firefighter inspects the damages in Beit Meir, a religious cooperative village in the hills to the west of Jerusalem, on November 25, 2016

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2016-11-25

Israeli firefighters on Friday reined in a blaze in the country’s third-largest city of Haifa that had forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes, but continued to battle more than a dozen other fires around the country.

Some 60,000 have yet to return to their homes as police forces and firefighting units were still heavily deployed in the Haifa area for fear that the fire could be reignited due to the rare dry, windy weather.

Though no serious injuries were caused, several dozen people were hospitalized for smoke inhalation. Hundreds of homes were damaged and in a rare move, Israel on Thursday called up military reservists to join overstretched police and firefighters and made use of an international fleet of firefighting aircraft sent by several countries.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said a small village in the forests near Jerusalem was evacuated overnight as several homes there caught fire.

Overall, he said 12 people have been arrested across Israel on suspicion of arson. The country’s leaders have raised the possibility that Arab assailants had intentionally set the blazes.

Israel has been on edge during more than a year of Palestinian attacks – mostly stabbings – that have tapered off but not completely halted in recent months.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blamed Palestinian incitement for fueling those attacks. Israel’s police chief Roni Alsheich told reporters on Thursday that early indications on the fires pointed toward a series of “politically motivated” arson attacks.

The fires began three days ago at the Neve Shalom community near Jerusalem where Israelis and Arabs live together. Later, blazes erupted in the northern Israeli area of Zichron Yaakov and elsewhere near Jerusalem before the largest ones spread across Haifa.

The rash of fires is the worst since 2010, when Israel suffered the single deadliest wildfire in its history. That blaze burned out of control for four days, killed 42 people and was extinguished only after firefighting aircraft arrived from as far away as the United States.

Israel has strengthened its firefighting capabilities since then, buying special planes that can drop large quantities of water on affected areas.

Several countries, including Russia, France, Cyprus, Turkey, Croatia, Greece and Italy were also sending assistance to battle this week’s blazes. In a rare gesture, the Palestinians also offered to send firefighting teams to help combat the flames.