In Europe war and increasing wildfires stress military and firefighters

Erickson Air-Cranes in Greece
At least nine Erickson Air-Cranes photographed together for the first time. October, 2021 in Greece. Photo by Dimitris Klagos. (According to a report from Erickson, there may have been 10 Air-Cranes at the site.)

Climate change, increasing wildfires, and Russia’s war in Ukraine are combining to put unusual stresses on governments, especially in Europe. When wildfires become numerous or very large, threatening large numbers of residents, many countries will mobilize military units. They may use helicopters to drop water or transport firefighters or trucks to assist with logistics. The United States has eight Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) that can be quickly loaded into military C-130s to drop retardant on fires. Soldiers on the ground can be transformed from warfighters to firefighters.

This year was the hottest summer on record in Europe. It followed what what is now the second hottest summer on the continent. During the worst drought in centuries wildfires burned about 50 percent more acres than the previous record set in 2017.

The Washington Post has an article about how the war is affecting countries in Europe, in this case Slovenia, that need to both fight wildfires as the climate changes and bolster the military as international tensions mount.

“There will be these disasters of fires or floods. It will be more and more common,” Defense Minister Marjan Šarec said in an interview. “We must spend our money for everything that is needed. Because safety has no price.”

“It’s not a dilemma of cannons or butter,” said Šarec, who has also been a volunteer firefighter. “As a serious country we must do both.”

But military leaders say the dual-headed challenge can sometimes be significant, and even contradictory.

“Our training is going on in a military way. Exercises. How to use military equipment, how to fight, how to protect. How to defend,” said Glavaš, the head of Slovenia’s military command. “When you stop this training and you go to civilian tasks you need to focus your mind from fighting to something else. It’s very hard sometimes.”

He said that fighting fires “definitely” had an impact on combat readiness.

Currently the European Union coordinates and funds the deployment of 12 fixed wing firefighting airplanes and one helicopter pooled by EU countries. Fire Aviation reported in July that the EU plans to purchase additional air tankers.

The European Commission issued a press release on  Oct. 5, 2022 confirming they are proposing to spend €170 million from the EU budget to reinforce its rescEU ground and aerial assets  in the summer of 2023. The rescEU transitional fleet would then have a total of 22 planes, 4 helicopters as well as more pre-positioned ground teams. Beginning in 2025, the fleet would be further reinforced through an accelerated procurement of airplanes and helicopters.

The Washington Post reported that Slovenian defense leaders decided this month to cancel a $343 million purchase of armored troop carriers as they contemplate buying more aircraft that could be used to fight fires.

Gérald Moussa Darmanin, France’s Minister of the Interior, said recently, “We want to increase the number of Canadair [water scooping air tankers] in our own fleet from twelve to sixteen. But the problem is not to buy them, it is to produce them. Today there are no longer any factories that do so.”

The CL-415 water scooping air tanker has been out of production for years, but De Havilland, which now owns the rights to the aircraft, announced on September 21 the planned construction of a huge aircraft manufacturing facility east of Calgary, Alberta. They expect to employ 1,500 workers to produce at least three lines of aircraft — DHC-515 (a modernized variant of the CL-415), DHC-6 Twin Otter, and Dash 8-400 (Q400).

An announcement from De Havilland said, “European customers have signed letters of intent to purchase the first 22 aircraft pending the positive outcome of government-to-government negotiations through the Government of Canada’s contracting agency, the Canadian Commercial Corporation. De Havilland Canada expects first deliveries of the DHC-515 [water scooping air tanker] by the middle of the decade, with deliveries of additional aircraft to begin at the end of the decade, providing other customers the opportunity to renew existing fleets or proceed with new acquisition opportunities at that time.”

In the near term it does not seem likely that European countries are going to be able to find and purchase dozens of purpose-built air tankers to meet their needs.

Before this year many of the firefighting aircraft typically used in Western Europe and the Middle East during the summer were contracted from Russia. With the war and sanctions that source has virtually dried up.

The Helicopter Investor reported that in April the Portuguese government expelled a team of Russian mechanics working on three of their Russian made Kamov helicopters, and shut down the hangar in Ponte de Sor where the maintenance crew was working. In 2006 the government spent €348 million to buy six Kamov Ka-32A helicopters which could transport personnel and drop water, but over the last 10 years have had difficulty keeping them airworthy. In January none of the six were operational.

The Portuguese Air Force has signed an agreement to purchase six Blackhawk helicopters outfitted for fighting wildfires. The aircraft will be supplied by Arista Aviation Services, a US-based firm which specializes in modernizing surplus US Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. Delivery of the first two is scheduled for the first quarter of 2023.

For a number of years Erickson Inc. has contracted their firefighting Air-Crane helicopters to European governments. In 2021 Columbia Helicopters had Columbia Model 234 Chinook’s on contract in Turkey. Single engine air tankers regularly make the migration between South America and Europe as the fire season switches hemispheres.

Additional wildfires break out in Europe as extreme heat continues

Multiple wildland-urban interface fires in greater London destroy dozens of homes

Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures United Kingdom
Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures in the UK July 19, 2022. Sky News.

On Tuesday the wildland fire danger north of London reached the “Very Extreme” stage which is three steps up from High which is followed by Very High and Extreme.

Highest ever temperatures were experienced in the United Kingdom. London Heathrow airport was among six locations to reach 104 degrees (40 Celsius) on Tuesday, shattering Britain’s all-time temperature record after the country declared a national emergency, well above the 2019 record of 101.7 degrees (38.7 Celsius).

Wildland fire danger in the UK, July 19, 2022
Wildland fire danger in the UK, July 19, 2022.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said on Twitter: “London Fire Brigade has just declared a major incident in response to a huge surge in fires across the capital today. This is critical: @LondonFire is under immense pressure.”

The agency listed 11 fires they were dealing with Tuesday at 3 p.m. local time. At least 10 involve vegetation:

  • Thirty fire engines dealing with a grass fire on Pea Lane in Upminster.
  • Fifteen fire engines tackling a fire on The Green in Wennington.
  • Twelve fire engines tackling a fire involving garden fencing and trees on Uxbridge Road in Pinner.
  • Ten fire engines tackling a restaurant fire on Green Lanes in Southgate.
  • Eight fire engines tackling a grass fire on Oaks Road in Croydon.
  • Eight fire engines tackling a grass fire on Ballards Road in Dagenham.
  • Eight fire engines tackling a fire on The Broadway in Wembley.
  • Six fire engines tackling a grass fire on Sunningfields Crescent in Hendon.
  • Four fire engines tackling a grass fire on Chapel View in Croydon.
  • Four fire engines tackling a fire on Sidcup Road in Eltham.
Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures United Kingdom
Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures in the UK July 19, 2022. Sky News.

Other wildfires are also occurring in the UK.

Hundreds of deaths have been attributed to the heat in Spain and Portugal since last week, and wildfires have forced tens of thousands of people out of their homes there, as well as in France.

In Spain a man who was building a fireline with an excavator abandoned the equipment as it was overrun by fire. He fled through a field with his clothes on fire and was transported to a hospital.

In southwestern France, wildfires have destroyed at least 19,000 hectares (47,000 acres) as temperatures rose to 108.8 degrees (42.7 Celsius) Monday, when dozens of locations set all-time highs. Conditions eased Tuesday when  a cool oceanic air mass arrived overnight.

In the United States night time temperatures are rising, which can affect fuel moisture, fuel temperature, and lower than average minimum relative humidity, all resulting in higher wildland fire danger. It also appears to be happening in Europe, at least recently.

From the Washington Post:

The United Kingdom not only posted its highest maximum daytime temperatures on record, but also its maximum overnight temperatures — with some locations not dipping below the upper 70s (25 to 26 Celsius). The lack of nighttime cooling was of grave concern to health officials as only a tiny percentage of British homes have air-conditioning.

By Wednesday, the core of the heat is forecast to focus over central and eastern Germany, Poland and southern Scandinavia as the heat dome is nudged eastward.

From Friday into the weekend, a new heat dome will build over southern Europe with extremely high temperatures over Spain, France and Italy, which have already endured multiple bouts of punishing heat this summer.

Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures United Kingdom
Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures in the UK July 19, 2022. Sky News.
Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures United Kingdom
A farmer uses spray equipment to check the spread of a grass fire in the UK July 19, 2022. Sky News.
Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures United Kingdom
Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures in the UK July 19, 2022. Sky News.
Heat Sources detected in Europe fires wildfires
Heat Sources detected in Europe by satellites, for the 7-day period ending July 19, 2022.

Hot dry weather leads to numerous wildfires in Europe

Weather forecast, Europe, for July 18, 2022
Weather forecast, Europe, for July 18, 2022. WeatherOnlne. For reference, 40C is 104F, and 35C is 95F.

As Western Europe enters its second heat wave in the last 30 days the maximum temperatures are predicted to set records. Residents in the United Kingdom could experience conditions none of them have ever seen as the temperature rises to 104F degrees (40C) or more, prompting officials to issue the first ever red “extreme heat” warning for Monday and Tuesday.

Farther south in Europe, in southwest France on Saturday there were temperature peaks of close to 108F (42C), as the city of Biarritz broke a maximum temperature record. Nearly three-quarters of the country’s population, 45 million people, were affected by red or orange heat alerts in what is the earliest heat wave ever recorded in France.

The hot, dry weather has resulted in numerous wildfires in Britain, Spain, Portugal, and France over the last several days, bringing an earlier than usual start of the fire season. Firefighters in London, yes, London, have dealt with more than 800 vegetation fires since the start of last month to July 12.

wildfire in the Bordeaux region of southwest France
Firefighters work on a wildfire in the Bordeaux region of southwest France. AP.

Two blazes near the coastal town of Arcachon in France’s southwest Gironde region have burned more than 24,000 acres since Tuesday. About 3,000 firefighters assisted by firefighting aircraft are battling the blazes in southern France.

On Friday a pilot was killed while working on a fire in Northeast Portugal when an Air Tractor AT-802AF Fire Boss went down near the town of Torre de Moncorvo after scooping water on the Douro river.

Spain is also working on several large fires that have burned tens of thousands of acres. In southern Andalusia, 3,000 people were evacuated after a fire started near the village of Mijas in the province of Malaga. Around 200 firefighters supported by 18 aircraft are assigned to the incident.

European heat wave
BBC weather forecaster Ben Rich.

BBC weather forecaster Ben Rich explained that the current heat wave is caused by the jet stream shifting north and a portion of it breaking off to form a low pressure area west of Portugal, a cutoff low, with south winds pumping heat north into Western Europe including Spain, France and the UK.

Combined drought indicator Europe
Combined drought indicator last 10 days in June, 2022. European Commission’s Drought Observatory..

Much of Western Europe and the southern UK are in drought ranging from warning to alert levels, according to the European Commission’s Drought Observatory. The dry soils allow more surface heating and the result is record-setting temperatures and lower than average moisture in the vegetation, establishing conditions that are conducive to large wildfires with high resistance to control.

The video below is a summary of current wildfires in Western Europe.

Largest wildfire ever in Austria being battled by hundreds of personnel

Posted on Categories WildfireTags ,

4:40 p.m EDT Oct. 31, 2021

 map wildfire in the Hirschwant region in Austria
The icons represent heat detected by satellites from a wildfire in the Hirschwant region in Austria between Oct. 25 and Nov. 1, 2021 local time. The icons represent the approximate locations.

A wildfire in Lower Austria has grown to become the largest in recorded history of the country. It started on Monday October 25 and quickly grew to 100 hectares (247 acres) but has not spread much since then.

“The emergency services can still limit the fire area to 115 hectares (284 acres),” said Franz Resperger from the Lower Austria fire brigade on October 29. A total of 500 helpers were called in.

The fire is about 62 kilometers (38 miles) southwest of Vienna.

wildfire in the region of Hirschwang in Austria
Still image of the wildfire in the region of Hirschwang in Austria, October 30, 2021, from the video below.

On October 29 the EU’s Emergency Response Coordination Center mobilized to the fire two Canadair CL-415 air tankers based in Italy, part of the EU’s rescEU transition fleet. Helicopters also responded from Germany, Italy, and Slovakia.

The CL-415s are scooping water from the New Danube River.

According to the state fire brigade commander Dietmar Fahrafellner, around 750,000 liters (198,000 gallons) of water were dropped on Saturday.

It has been extremely dry in the country, especially in Lower Austria. The last time it was this dry was 35 years ago, in September and October of 1986.

European organization recruiting 15 fire-related PhD candidates

PyroLife will train a new generation of experts in integrated wildfire management

PhD candidates in Europe
Two of the 15 positions available for fire-related PhD candidates in Europe. Click to enlarge.

An organization in Europe is recruiting 15 PhD candidates who have wildfire-related  masters degrees. They will be part of the PyroLife Innovative Training Network (Marie Skłodowska-Curie) involved in integrated fire management.

Ten leading institutions will host and monitor the research done by the 15 individuals who are early-stage researchers. The interdisciplinary and intersectoral consortium spans across Northwest and Southern Europe and beyond, encompassing the key disciplines and actors in fire; from academia and research institutes to small and large businesses, advocacy, governance, and emergency management.

One of the announcements for the 15 positions has already closed, and the others will very soon. Here is a link to the individual announcements.

The project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, Innovative Training Networks.

The applicants will be based in various locations in Europe. Some of them will at times be in one or more of the following countries: Spain, Canada, France, Netherlands, Greece, United States, Poland, UK, Denmark, New Zealand, or Germany.

The positions may have unusual requirements concerning the location of the applicant. Here is an example:

PyroLife as a Marie Curie Action is a researcher mobility programme. You are therefore required to undertake transnational mobility in order to be eligible for recruitment. As such, you must not have resided or carried out your main activity (e.g. work, studies) in the country where you have been recruited for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the recruitment date.

Below is more information from the organization’s website:

Do you have a genuine interest in landscape fires and resilience? Are you up for an interdisciplinary challenge, looking and learning beyond your own field and assumptions? With an international team that is inclusive, collaborative, creative and open minded? Then we are looking for you!

The 2018 wildfire season was a glimpse of what to expect in the future: deadly mega-fires in Mediterranean regions and high fire activity in temperate and boreal areas outside the typical Spring fire season. We cannot solve this challenge with the old mono-disciplinary approach of fire suppression: there is a critical need to change fire management from fire resistance to landscape resilience: Living with Fire. This requires a new type of diverse experts, who not only understand fire, but who are also able to communicate risks, deal with uncertainty, and link scientific disciplines as well as science and practice.

The new Innovative Training Network PyroLife will train the new generation of interdisciplinary experts in integrated fire management, acknowledging that 1) knowledge transfer from southern Europe (and worldwide) to temperate Europe can support the new generation of experts; and 2) fire risk planning, communication and management can learn from cross-risk lessons including temperate European expertise in water management. In doing so, this project combines how the North solves community problems with the fire knowledge of the European South.

We are hiring 15 PhD candidates across Southern and Northwest Europe and across a range of scientific disciplines, from social sciences and policy to environmental sciences and engineering. We are looking for a diverse group of creative and open minded Early Stage Researchers who are able to link innovative science to society, and communicate with media, stakeholders, and policy makers.

These 15 positions are open at 6 universities, 2 research institutes, a foundation and a company across Southern and Northwest Europe. For an overview of all positions, please visit

This PhD project will help formulate an effective temperate European Fire Danger rating system that is urgently needed to support the management of increased wildfire occurrence expected under changing climatic conditions.  The project will take a hydrological approach, predicting the moisture content of fuels (living and dead vegetation) at a range of spatial scales; from targeted high risk localised plots to temperate European regions. Fuel moisture predictions will be devised from the development of a low-cost wireless fuel moisture sensor network combined with remotely sensed water and vegetation data. Working with secondment partners, the impact of the refined temperate fuel moisture contents on fire behaviour and fire danger will be assessed at exemplar sites. The PhD project will be based at the University of Birmingham, UK, with secondments to both the University of Alberta, Canada, and to industry partners Tecnosylva, Spain.

Far more wildfire hectares have burned to date in Europe than average

Wildfires to date in Europe map
Wildfires to date in Europe, May 14, 2019.

The number of hectares that have burned in wildfires so far this year in Europe is over four times the average for this date. Usually wildfire activity begins in earnest around the first of July but this year burned hectares began accumulating rapidly in mid-February. The 11-year average by May 14 is about 35,000 hectares but this year the to-date total is 197,000.

One hectare is equal to 2.47 acres.

Accumulated wildfire hectares to date in Europe
Accumulated wildfire hectares to date in Europe, May 14, 2019.