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EU has a record of burned area and Portugal is on the "podium

The provisional balance of fires in the European Union indicates a new record at this time of year, with more than 660,000 hectares burned since January, with Portugal being the third country with the largest burned area.



Since January 1, fires have devastated 662,776 hectares of forests in the European Union (EU), according to data updated Sunday by the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), which keeps comparable statistics since 2006 thanks to satellite imagery from the European Copernicus program.

The area most affected by fires is the Iberian Peninsula, and although the peak fire season is not yet over, the data for the EU shows the most serious situation ever experienced at this time of year.

The previous record for Europe was in 2017, when 420,913 hectares had burned by August 13 and 988,087 hectares in total for the year, more than 400,000 in a single month.

Spain, with a severe drought and several heat waves this summer, saw 246,278 hectares devastated by fires, mainly in Galicia in the northwest.

In terms of burned areas, after Spain are Romania (150,528 hectares), Portugal (75,277 hectares) and France (61,289 hectares), the most affected countries, according to data from the European service.

France experienced worse years in the 1970s, before standardized European data, but 2022 is the most severe in 16 years, according to these figures, largely due to two consecutive fires in Gironde, in the southwest of the country, where German, Polish and Austrian firefighters arrived this week as reinforcements.

In the summer period alone, "2022 is already a record year," Jesus San-Miguel, EFFIS coordinator, told France-Presse.

Exceptional drought in Europe, coupled with heat waves, makes it easier for fires to start.

These conditions were most often observed in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, but "this is exactly what happened in Central Europe," which has so far been spared by these meteorological phenomena, adds Jesus San-Miguel.

For example, the Czech Republic saw a fire devastate more than a thousand hectares, which is little compared to other countries, but 158 times more than the average from 2006-2021, when fires were insignificant.

In Slovenia, it took firefighters more than ten days in July to bring the largest wildfire in the country's recent history under control, helped by a population so mobilized that the government had to ask residents to stop donating to firefighters.

In Central Europe, the burned areas are, however, still small compared to the tens of thousands of hectares in Spain, France, or Portugal, but continued global warming across Europe is only likely to accentuate the trend.

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