In the hot summer of 2022, the European Union records a record of fires. From 1 January to 16 July in the Member States a total of 346 thousand hectares of wooded areas went up in flames, an area larger than the entire Valle d’Aosta (326 thousand hectares). The burned area is three times the average of the last 16 years, which in the same time span is equal to 110,350 hectares. The picture emerges from an analysis of the data provided by the European Forest Fire Information System (Effis) of the European Commission. The number of major fires (over 30 hectares) since the beginning of the year stands at 1,756, almost four times the average of 470 from 2006 to 2021.
The Iberian Peninsula is burning. As well as the south of France and Greece. It is Southern Europe, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea but not only, to suffer the most from the consequences of heat and drought, including Italy, with widespread fires. Thousands of firefighters are fighting the fires in Portugal, Spain, southwestern France and Greece, countries in the throes of a heat wave that shows no sign of abating. There is also a victim in the north of Portugal. It is a pilot who died when the Fire Boss amphibious plane he was driving in an attempt to put out the flames crashed in the Foz Coa area, near the Spanish border. The fires are also devastating areas in the Gironde region of France, where more than 11,000 people have been evacuated. In the south of Spain, near the Costa del Sol, around 2,300 people have had to flee a fire that has spread to the hills of Mijas and which was visible from the beach of Torremolinos. While in Greece in the last 24 hours there have been at least 51 forest fires as indicated by the Hellenic firefighters.
Since Tuesday, temperatures have risen to 47 degrees Celsius in Portugal and surpassed 40 degrees Celsius in Spain, drying up the countryside and fueling fires. More than 300 people died from the heat in the two Iberian countries, reports the Spanish news agency Efe. In Portugal, the fires were concentrated in the area north-east of the city of Porto. This year the flames destroyed 30,000 hectares of land in Portugal, the largest area since the summer of 2017, when around 100 people died in the country due to the fires.
Sweltering heat also in France, where the thermometer hit 40 degrees Celsius, but where the worst is expected next week. There are already 16 French departments for which the orange weather alert has been set up. The French fire chief warned of the impact global warming is having on civil protection. “It is the firefighters, civil security who deal with the effects on a daily basis and these effects are not in 2030, they are today,” said Grégory Allione. At least 900 firefighters are deployed to fight a large forest fire in southeastern France that has forced many villages to evacuate. Thirteen firefighters were injured in Bordezac, the village where the fire broke out.