Forest fire preparedness to be intensified
When fighting forest fires, it is essential to ensure smooth cooperation between authorities and other operators. This applies to both preparedness for forest fires and extinguishing work if a fire occurs. Emergency services authorities, representatives from the Finnish Meteorological Institute and forestry sector operators are meeting today at a seminar hosted by the Finnish Association of Fire Chiefs to discuss experiences with forest fires over the past few years and measures to prepare for future fires.
Last July, the Finnish municipality of Pyhäranta experienced a large-scale forest fire by Finnish standards. The damage caused by the fire would have been significantly greater without the fast, efficient action of emergency services, the local authorities and their networks. In Finland, the spread of forest fires is prevented through many predetermined measures, and rescue services generally make it to the area quickly using the dense forest road network. We are also usually able to detect fires quickly using satellite imaging and aerial fire detection.
However, climate change is increasing the risk of large-scale forest fires, which is why it is necessary to invest in preventing and combating forest fires at the local, regional and national levels. The Finnish Forest Centre, for example, is developing three-dimensional forest fire maps to support the work of rescue authorities based on open forest data, three-dimensional laser scanning and wild woods data. The forest fire maps show the locations where forest fires are most likely to occur and how they could spread through the terrain. They also indicate forest roads and important waterways for extinguishing.
Good forest management plays an essential role in forest fire preparedness
Well-managed forests with sufficient biodiversity are better equipped to withstand pressure from the changing climate. With this in mind, the newly updated National Forest Strategy (in Finnish, summary in English) coordinated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry now places a stronger focus on developing climate sustainable forest management practices.
The Finnish Meteorological Institute regularly assesses the flammability of forest terrain based on weather observations and calculation models in its forest fire index and issues forest and grass fire warnings when necessary. The Ministry of the Interior and rescue services, for their part, issue open fire bans when necessary and distribute information on what to do during a forest fire warning. If forest fires do occur despite these measures, emergency services work to extinguish them as soon as possible in cooperation with the Finnish Forest Centre’s preparedness groups, contract fire brigades, other authorities and volunteers when necessary.
There has also been an increase in international cooperation to prepare for forest fires. Forest fires have been discussed at various cooperation forums at the Nordic, European Union and broader international levels. Last autumn, the Nordic countries’ Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry agreed to strengthen Nordic cooperation in order to mitigate the problems caused by drought and forest fires. A report describing the forest fire situation and measures to fight forest fires in the different countries is currently being prepared as a result of the cooperation.
• Tatu Torniainen, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, tel. +358 29 516 2162, [email protected]
• Rami Ruuska, Senior Officer for Rescue Services, Ministry of the Interior, tel. +358 295 488 424, [email protected]
• Finnish Forest Centre (particularly inquiries on forest fire maps): Leena Leskinen, Business Manager, tel. +358 29 432 5051, +358 50 308 4696, [email protected]