Analysis of forest fire fatalities in Southern Europe: Spain, Portugal, Greece and Sardinia (Italy)
Viegas, Domingos Xavier
Silva, Carlos A.
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Wildfire fatalities remain a significant problem in Mediterranean Europe. Although there is a strong inter-annual variability with regard to their number, repeated tragic accidents remind us of this grim occurrence, despite the increasing firefighting capacity aimed to improve human safety. In this paper, we present an analysis of the 865 fatalities caused by wildfires in the 1945–2016 period. Data originating from national databases were merged, contextual and weather factors related to the accidents that caused these deaths were documented and analysed to explore probable relationships with the number and type of fatalities. Results show a major rise of fatalities in late 1970s in the four regions of Greece, Sardinia (Italy), Spain and Portugal. Fatalities present a strong seasonality in summer months, as expected. Overall, Spain has the highest absolute numbers of fatalities; however, normalisations by population, and burned and forest area show that annual number of fatalities is comparatively smaller. Certain other factors showed correlation with mortality. Civilians were the most affected group in Greece (65%) and Sardinia (58%), but not in Spain and Portugal. Findings indicate that an in-depth revision of fire-management policies and practices is required, with emphasis on prevention planning in urban areas, and better training of the firefighting resources.