GMV presents the results of the FIRESMART fire-prevention project
The results were presented in the 28th meeting of the European Commission Expert Group on Forest Fires
Prevention is the surest way of trying to halt the disappearance of our woodland
GMV, technology business group, is leading a European consortium that is working towards the prevention of unwanted forest fires. It is doing so by analyzing the most important fire prevention theories and practices in Europe to pinpoint the obstacles that might balk the effectiveness of current measures. This project, FIRESMART (Forest and Land Management Options to prevent unwanted forest fires), is a European Commission FP7 project.
The FIRESMART project, with a budget of close to €1 million, was brought to a close at the 28th meeting of the European Commission Expert Group on Forest Fires (EGFF), held in Antalya, Turkey, from 24 to 27 April.
The GMV-led FIRESMART consortium is made up by technology firms (GMV itself), environment services (EIMFOR from Spain, AMBIENTE ITALIA), research centers (JRC of the European Commission, INIA from Spain, ISRTEA from France) and forest owner confederations (FORESTIS from Portugal and the community-wide Confederation of European Forest Owners, CEPF).
The most important conclusions drawn from these 27 months of work bring out both the strengths and weaknesses of current fire-prevention practices in the various countries of Europe, confirming the need for a long-term prevention strategy and the importance of integrating fire prevention as an intrinsic part of forest management. This is the only way of ensuring future sustainability of forest ecosystems, especially in the Mediterranean area.
The project conclusions have been formulated in practical and efficient terms by way of recommendations, which will then be sent up to the European Commission through the Expert Group. Some are general in character, based on a Europe-wide analysis, while others are tailored to local needs. Throughout the project these recommendations have been circulated among managers, researchers and local prevention bodies, especially in the four pilot areas of the project: Valencia in Spain, Cagliari in Italia, Pinhal Interior in Portugal and Les Bouches du Rhône in France, all strongly affected by fires and with prevention policies underway.
The most important general fire-prevention recommendations are:
- Management– Incorporation of prevention into forest planning and into sustainable forest management is key to the fight against forest fires.
- Economy – Obtaining renewable energy from forest biomass, as pointed out on various forums, could represent a fire-prevention funding opportunity.
- Policies– Prevention calls for a joint effort involving regional, economic, social and environmental policies. Forestry policy has to go hand in hand with energy policy and the rural development policy, establishing synergistic programmes and action lines.
- Research – Communication between research centers and forest managers have to show the application and efficiency of new prevention achievements by means of successful pilot schemes.
- Social and communication stakeholders– The sheer variety of stakeholders involved in sustainable forest management highlights the need for better communication of mutual interests.
The project has also worked up a series of specific recommendations for areas analyzed, including: agroforestry management, social awareness, training, information to the press, approval of programs of prevention, causes and prevention against specific risks, preventive silviculture, preventive management in the wildland urban interface, budgets and funding for prevention and countermeasures for prevention, etc.
The "Group of Experts on Forest Fires" of the European Commission was established in 1998 by DG Environment. The group meets twice a year and consists of 27 members, representing EU Member States, and 7 other observers. The role of the EGFF is crucial since the EU has no common forestry policy. This means there are glaring differences in forestry management and in the way of tackling problems such as forest fires. The EGFF analyzes the problems of the forestry sector and sends up sustainable management proposals to the Commission for it to lay down common lines of action.
In the words of Ana Sebastián, Doctor in Forestry Engineering and Head of the FIRESMART project: “ FIRESMART represents an important advance in terms of pooling and analyzing current fire-prevention information in Europe, widely scattered up to now. This project has involved precious networking tasks among all the various prevention stakeholders and sows the seed of a future network of fire prevention agents. FIRESMART’s results offer crucial insights for constructing prevention policies and especially for developing a European forestry policy.”
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