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Periodic Report Summary - FIRESMART (Forest and land management options to prevent unwanted forest fires)

Project context and objectives:

Forests are a vital renewable resource in Europe, benefiting both society and economy. European Union (EU) wooded lands roughly cover 160 million hectares, 35 % of the territory. However, fires severely threat EU forests. On average, 40 000 annual fires burn down some 500 000 ha of forested lands, mostly on the southern Member States. Even in fire-adapted regions, such as the Mediterranean, where fire rotation periods become shorter, between 300 000 and 500 000 hectares of forests and other wooded lands burn down every year. This trend may well hinder the potential of natural forests regeneration and contribute to the depletion of biodiversity. Effective solutions are to be sought to minimise disastrous events; more and more key solutions concentrate in fire prevention measures and the spread of successful practices.

Nowadays, wildfires in Europe result mainly from socioeconomic development and the consequent change in life habits. They are linked to modern models of life - increased mobility, tourism and recreational activities. Traditional rural socioeconomic systems, which once characterised the Mediterranean basin, no longer exist. Fire risks have increased as a result of rural abandonment, an ageing population and shortcuts of economic circuits for forest products; the increase of urbanisation, coastal tourism and infrastructure construction. Natural and human resources prove unable to adjust to such changes in a sustainable way.

General knowledge on fire prevention theories, policies and practices across Europe is rather dispersed, fragmented, unpublished, kept to the local knowledge and transmitted in a generational manner. FIRESMART examines the ways to overcome these obstacles, linking forest managers and stakeholders and providing a tool to share information among organisations. Technical and scientific knowledge on fire prevention is gathered in a structured manner (data base) and made accessible through a web site search engine, not only for the scientific and technical community but also for the general public.

Fire prevention in forest management plans may be tackled from a wide range of stand viewpoints; FIRESMART focuses on the following prevention topics throughout planned tasks:

1. agroforestry and grazing as preventive fire measures
2. awareness rising and training for fire prevention
3. fire causes and fire risk
4. institutional aspects in support of forest fire prevention
5. legislative aspects of forest fire prevention
6. preventive silviculture
7. socioeconomic aspects of forest fire prevention
8. fire prevention in the wildland urban interface.


FIRESMART is a Support Action of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), and has two main objectives:

1. firstly, to identify obstacles to the effectiveness of forest fire preventive measures and
2. secondly, to derive recommendations to integrate prevention practices in regular forest management plans.

Five scaled actions are planned to achieve the said objectives:

1. identify and gather written records of forest fire prevention practices already applied in different European countries/regions. The result shall be a structured scientific and technical catalogue of quotations, accessible through a web searching tool, developed as part of work package one (WP1).
2. identify obstacles that prevent a true 'smart-fire-prevention' forest management pondering the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of current procedures (WP2).
3. identify approaches and assess options to overcome the above-mentioned obstacles taking into account the particular socioeconomic, institutional and legislative aspects (WP3).
4. derive recommendations and practical guidelines for stakeholders involved in the entire sustainable management chain of silviculture. These will cover institutional aspects, management practical advice and incentives to prevent unwanted forest fires (WP3).
5. procure an impact on forest management at regional, national and European levels through a strong dissemination plan (WP4) which includes: involvement of local authorities of four test sites, an interactive web site, questionnaires, personal interviews, three international workshops, local workshops at the four test sites , printed material, etc.

FIRESMART's aims to connect communities involved in forest fire prevention, particularly those along the silvicultural chain such as forest managers, landowners, fire managers and policy makers, scientists, educators and the general public. The consortium represents EU and national forest owners, European and national scientific research institutions, technological forest management small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and a large high-tech enterprise.

Consortium and stakeholders

The project consortium gathers EU and national forest owners (CEPF and Forestis), European and national scientific research institutions (IES-JRC, INIA and Cemagref), technological forest management SME's (EIMFOR and AmbienteItalia) and a large high-tech enterprise (GMV):

1. GMV, Aerospace and Defence, S.A.U Spain (ES)
3. Cemagref France (FR)
4. Forestis Portugal (PT)
5. AmbienteItalia Italy
6. INIA (ES)
7. CEPF (EU)

Forests are systems where multiple social, economic and environmental elements converge; the integration of these aspects is the key for a successful sustainable development. The synergies sought among FIRESMART stakeholders try to connect communities around forest fire prevention, particularly those integrating the silvicultural chain, that is:

1. Managers and policy makers: forest, land and fire managers
2. Rural development agents: forest-based industry, crop and livestock, rural associations
3. Scientists and educators: forestry-fire scientists, international fire work groups.

Project results:

Scaled actions one and two above mentioned are already accomplished (i.e. gathering of disperse technical and scientific records on fire prevention and analysis of such material to identify the obstacles that hinder fire prevention practices), while all other actions are in progress. Key results attained are:

The knowledge base for fire prevention practices has not been tackled systematically, and is restricted to local procedures, often lacking accessibility The FIRESMART documental database compiles over 1200 records of theories and practices on forest fire prevention. Documentation sources and media types include books, interviews, peer-reviewed and magazine articles, maps, presentations, scientific and technical reports, videos and websites. These records are organised into two different collections: one scientific and the other technical. The strength of the database is the standardisation of the catalogue and its access through a dedicated link at

The FIRESMART questionnaire on forest fire prevention obstacles, policies, practices, awareness rising campaigns, etc. has been produced. Currently, the questionnaire is active in five languages (English, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese) at It was initially issued to 1854 people and more than 400 forest stakeholders have already answered it, sharing their forest fire prevention knowledge:

1. local and regional silvicultural chain stakeholders
2. land owners, managers and policy makers
3. scientist, educators and environmental media specialists
4. rural development agents, either industrial or administrative
5. fire fighters and other technical specialists.

The analysis of the documentary database and the questionnaire answers in search of the obstacles that prevent effective fire prevention. Results are provided in terms of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for each of the eight topics above.

Dissemination is ongoing and in the 10 months following this report will reach its peak. The first project workshop was a great success, with more than 150 attendants. Press releases were numerous and the contents will be published in the third quarter of 2011. Two other workshops will take place, one in Brussels (October 2011) and the other at Ispra, in late January 2012. The aim of these workshops is to offer forest stakeholders an arena for dialogue and to discuss experiences of fire prevention: good practices, policies, technical processes, costs and benefits, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities or threats.

FIRESMART was also present at the Fifth International Wildland Fire Conference in South Africa, presenting a keynote speech; furthermore, a consortium partner chaired the international regional session for the Mediterranean, focused on the fire prevention recommendations for the region.

Potential impact:

EU countries approach the issue of fire prevention according to different methodological considerations, priorities and legal structures. In the past, the prevention of forest fires and related activities has been often overlooked in national legislation and forest management plans. The reason for this is that forestry does not have a legal mandate in the European treaty, although forestry issues have been addressed in several policy areas. The lack of mandate and coordination has resulted in numerous binding measures or policies that impact on forests, whilst having no consistent approach to forestry and the forest industry sector.

FIRESMART's overall success lies in increasing the awareness of fire prevention procedures in sustainable forest management (SFM) plans. The dissemination objectives are being met through the workshops, which are open to a whole array of forest stakeholders. Evidence of the success of the dissemination is already evident with new website hits, networking amongst forest stakeholders, scientific papers, presentations in international conferences, and documented preventive good practices uploaded onto the FIRESMART database happening all the time.

The dissemination strategy is expected to have a positive impact on several social groups. Forest managers will acquire results from different projects and will be able to compare their management approaches with ones adopted in other regions. Farmers and forest owners are expected to attain helpful information on the development of prevention strategies to be used to improve local forest management and minimise risks. The general public will also benefit from FIRESMART's specific actions to bring forest research and forest management issues closer to them.

The resulting strategic roadmap will contribute to the definition of a European policy on fire prevention, where synergies with other land-planning policies related to forest fires are identified and developed. So, while forestry does not have a legal mandate in the European treaty, forestry issues are addressed in several policy areas. The lack of mandate and coordination has resulted in numerous binding measures or policies that impact on forests, whilst having no consistent approach to forestry and the forest industry sector. Within this context, FIRESMART looks forward to the opportunity of posing recommendations for effective fire prevention practices in SFM to the institutions involved in the related policies.

FIRESMART seeks partnerships from more than just institutions and policy makers, realising that the solution to the problems facing European forests lie with all sections of society. Farmers, cattle breeders and private forest owners are just as relevant to fire prevention as environmental educators, land planners and wood industries. Politicians are becoming aware that forests will only survive in positive relation to agricultural, economic and territorial policies and therefore these are crucial to the forest fire prevention task. The project has interviewed 500 forest stakeholders, who are concerned and aware that the war against forest fires is won through the daily battles of preventive practices.

FIRESMART seeks to make connection amongst the silvicultural chain actors: forest owners and managers, land planners, fire fighters and policy makers; as well as forest-based industrial operators, rural development associations and crop-livestock associations. Forest scenarios in southern Europe change rapidly due to the abandonment of rural businesses, depopulation and the new housing developments in the wildland / urban interface. As well as making connections, the situation also requires a new educational perspective towards urban citizens, often poorly acquainted with forest ecology and fire dynamics, which the project aims to tackle through education.

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