Managing forest fires

Each summer we hear terrible news about forest fires from world fire prone areas, a trend that has continued this year with the especially tragic news from Greece. Unfortunately, more are expected to come.

Science-based information for profound media reporting is needed to prevent misinformation of the public. Currently, EFI experts and members of the EFI network provide several European news channels with their knowledge on wildfires, firefighting, effects of climate change, land management and forest resilience.

Alex Held in the field


  • "We need a strategy to tackle forest fires in Germany, too", says EFI senior expert Alexander Held when speaking with the German ZDF Morgenmagazin. "This strategy has to improve fire fighter's reactions, but also changes in silviculture as well as other prevention methods."
  • "Rather than adapting forest management, we rely too much on firefighters", states Alexander Held in his interview with Le Temps. "Beyond climatic conditions, the way in which soil and vegetation are used has a significant influence on fire spread", Held says.
  • Marcus Lindner, Principal Scientist at EFI, elaborates in the Greek newspaper Kathimerini on the theoretical and empirical basis for claiming that climate change is contributing to extreme weather events and causing more natural disasters.
  • One day after a fire in Siegburg, Germany, EFI's Alexander Held speaks with the German television station ZDF about larg-scale fires and how to prevent them through controlled burning, grazing and other methods. 
  • In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Alexander Held recommends to invest more in fire prevention instead of buying expensive extinguishing technology. (in German)
  • Europe 'not doing its homework' on basic wildfire prevention, experts like Alexander Held warn in a background article published by The Telegraph.
  • Forest fires are likely to break out in stands already damages by other forest risks like storm, says Alexander Held in ZDF Heute+. He also shares his knowledge on fire prevention with a focus on German forests. (in German)
  • The Debate on France24 brought EFI's Alexander Held on board to discuss the reasons behind the extreme weather.
  • On the German main television channel ZDF, Alexander Held states that we will have more forest fires in the future, also in regions like Germany, Sweden and Finland. (in German)
  • In the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, Alexander Held stresses that policy makers and society need to become aware that in addition to effects of climate change, failed land and forest management are reasons for forest fires. (in Greek)
  • In a newly published Euronews story, Alexander Held and Marc Castellnou share their insights on how firefighters go about tackling a wildfire and emphasise the need for research to support fire suppression in a context of climate change.
  • Alexander Held was also one of the experts in a BBC article, elaborating on better forest risk management and profound evacuation plans.
  • In a report on forest fires in Europe published by the Deutschlandfunk Kultur, Alexander Held talks about the fire risk in Germany and highlights the need for more European collaboration in fire prevention and mitigation. (in German)
  • An article in the El Pais by Marc Castellnou talks about the causes for forest fires, about lessons learned and what we can do in the future to prevent megafires like Portugal 2017 and Greece 2018. (in Spanish)

Watch Marc Castellnou's talk in EFI's ThinkForest event on Role of bioeconomy in controlling forest fires

Living with wildfires: what science can tell us EFI Discussion Paper No. 15

Information note: The bioeconomy as an opportunity to solve the structural problem of forest fires in southern Europe

An interview with EFI senior expert Alexander Held in Euronews (2017) focusses on the prevention of fires by better land management.

It is clear that the urgency lies with combating the fires and providing help to local communities, but once the crisis is past, policy makers need to put forward science-informed policies to address the root causes of forest fires.

This short video by EFI looks at the key factors of increased forest fire risk in the Mediterranean region and advocates for a new vision based on shifting the focus from reactive fire suppression to long-term proactive fire prevention and forest management at the landscape scale.


The risk of forest fires in the Mediterranean region is outpacing fire suppression capabilities, despite the billions of euros invested. Four key factors explain this:

  • the expansion of forests as a result of rural abandonment;
  • the increase in fuel loads due to lack of forest management;
  • the high number of fire ignitions due to socio-economic and land-use related factors;
  • climate change and increasing weather risk conditions.

In the past, the focus has been on fire suppression rather than on long-term strategies for fire prevention. Now, we need a new vision where the focus is shifted from fire suppression to fire prevention and forest management: managing our forests to be more resilient to climate change and addressing the socio-economic and land-use conflicts responsible for the high number of fire ignitions.

Watch the video here:

For more information, contact:

Marc Palahí, Director, European Forest Institute,, tel. +358 10 773 4342

Inazio Martinez de Arano, Head of EFI Mediterranean Regional Office,, tel. +34 93 515 3211

Alexander Held, Senior Expert, European Forest Institute,, tel. +49 7633 9233 868