Vegetation management is a powerful defence against large wildfires


Autor: Daniel Kraus and Alexander Held


The current fire situation in southern Europe, namely in Spain, is of high concern. Drastic weather conditions that started with extremely dry winter months in 2011/2012, make all efforts to control such fiercely burning fires nearly impossible. Large wildfires can only occur when there is a combination, at the same time, of three things: an ignition source, severe weather conditions (high temperatures, strong and gusting winds) and accumulation of combustible material in the vegetation. Remove any of these three factors and a large wildfire cannot develop.

It is obviously difficult to control the weather, nor is there hope to eliminate all possible avenues of ignition, such as careless use of fire, negligent behaviour, accidents and arson. The only factor that can be controlled is the large contiguous accumulations of vegetation that acts as fuel. Therefore, broad scale vegetation management and preventive use of controlled fire to reduce combustible material are the only defence against large wildfires. This will not prevent fires occurring but it will ensure fires are less intense, easier and safer to control and will do less damage.

”There is a clear need to base fire management decisions on fire ecology science,” states Alexander Held, researcher in fire ecology at EFICENT, Central European Regional Office of EFI. Fire science based management of vegetation will reduce the vulnerability and make forest ecosystems more resilient. Investing in the training of personnel involved in fire management is cost effective and will provide long term effects.

EFI is currently working on the development of a European Forest Risk Facility to improve the way we deal with forest disturbances on a European level to ensure the continuity of forest ecosystems and ecosystem services, reducing vulnerability, increasing resilience, managing risk to save costs, under a changing climate.

More on prevention of wild fires: handbook-prevention-large-fires_en.pdf

More information: Alexander Held or Daniel Kraus

European Forest Institute

Central European Regional Office/EFICENT-OEF


479100 Freiburg, Germany

Tel. +49 (0) 761 4018 478 or +49 (0)761 4018 472

Email: alexander.held (at) or daniel.kraus (at)