Spain is EU country with most burned hectares of forest this year

by Lorraine Williamson
burned hectares

A total of 293,155 hectares have gone up in flames and burned in Spain so far in 2022. We can speak of the worst forest fires of the last 15 years, according to the latest data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) of the European Union’s Copernicus programme. 

The situation this year is very serious. The figure means that 0.58% of Spanish territory has been destroyed. This is four times more than the average number of hectares burnt over the last decade (69,331). Moreover, according to estimates by the European system, 411 fires of 30 hectares or more have occurred this year. This is also a record in the data recorded since 2008. 

2022 has already become the year with the largest burnt area in Spain. However, we can also look at the percentage of hectares burned in relation to the size of the country. In that respect, Spain at 0.58% is equal or less than the following countries;

  • Croatia (0.58%)
  • Romania (0.63%)
  • Portugal (1.13%)

Record 

Data from the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (MITECO) shows that 252,690 hectares were burnt by 28 August, compared to 74,260 hectares in the same period in 2021. 

This year’s figures are the highest in the last ten years. Furthermore, they broke the record set in 2012 with 189,943 hectares burned at the same time of year. The year 2018, with 19,782 hectares burnt, is the year with the lowest burnt area of this decade in the same period, according to MITECO data. 

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Large fires 

The year 2022 is also the year with the highest number of large fires, fires of more than 500 hectares. There are already 54 of them. In 2012 there were 36, in 2021 Spain had 16 large fires. In this respect, too, 2018 was the ‘best’ year, with three major fires. 

So far this year, 8,329 fires have been recorded, of which 5,733 are ‘near misses’, involving less than one hectare. In terms of vegetation type, 126,599.60 hectares burnt were undergrowth and open forest; 108,195 hectares were forest, and 17,894 hectares were grassland. 

Where were the most fires? 

Almost half of the fires, 45.64%, were registered in the northwest (which includes the autonomous communities of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and the provinces of León and Zamora). In the inland communities (including the Basque Country and the non-coastal provinces of León and Zamora), 36.76% of the fires destroyed 37.95% of the wooded area and 30.82% of the forested area. 

In the Mediterranean region (which includes the coastal autonomous communities of the Mediterranean and their inland provinces), 17.15% of the fires occurred. Whereas, in the Canary Islands, the percentage was 0.46% and 2.53% of the wooded area went up in flames. 

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