Europe’s Wildfires in 2023 Were Among Worst This Century: Report

The 2023 wildfire season in the Europe was among the worst this century, according to a European Commission report published on Wednesday.

Last year, more than half a million (504,002) hectares, an area twice the size of Luxembourg, was scorched by wildfires, according to a report on Forest Fires in Europe, Middle East and North Africa 2023 by the Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

The three worst years this century by the extent of burnt area mapped by the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) were 2017 (988,427 ha), 2022 (837,212 ha) and 2007 (588,388 ha).

The report shows that fires intensified during summer 2023, affecting mostly the Mediterranean region, with Greece (near Alexandroupoli) suffering the largest single fire to occur in Europe since the 1980s.

Climate change is making wildfires more frequent, and wildfires are increasingly affecting areas that have not been considered fire-prone in the past, the report said. It added that things are likely to get worse, according to the European Climate Risk assessment report published in March.

Preliminary data for the first three months of 2024 show almost double the average number of fires, although these did not have major impact in terms of burnt areas.

According to the report, the wildfires produced some 20 megatonnes of CO2 emissions, equivalent to nearly a third of all emissions from international aviation in the EU in one year.

The final 2023 report, integrating national contributions, is due to be published in the autumn.

(Reporting by De Clercq; editing by Mark Potter)

Top photo: Flames rise during a forest fire on the island of Rhodes, Greece, on Saturday, July 22, 2023. (Argyris Mantikos/Eurokinissi via AP)