EDJNet investigates on fires in Croatia (part I)

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In 2022, Croatia battled severe wildfires, prompting innovative solutions supported by EU funding. Unique challenges, including abandoned fields and fragmented ownership, heightened the risk. The European Data Journalism Network’s transnational journalistic investigation of wildfires explored the issue.

Summer 2022 saw a forest fire crisis for Croatia’s coastal region, with extensive damage and thousands evacuated, including unusual activity in typically unaffected areas like Istria. The article by Chiara Marchesini – OBC Transeuropa, part of the Wildfires in Europe investigation, delved deeper into the causes of Croatia’s susceptibility to extreme fires. Changes in the landscape over the last century, such as the abandonment of farmlands in Dalmatia created dense, highly flammable vegetation. Clearing abandoned fields faces challenges of property fragmentation, complicating efforts to manage and prevent wildfires, particularly in privately owned high-risk areas.

Forest fire near Dubrovnik (© Fraser Takes Photos/Shutterstock)

On the other hand, significant progress has been made in recent years, notably through initiatives like HOLISTIC, a comprehensive EU-funded project at the Croatian Forest Research Institute. The project supported the installation of coastal cameras and modern equipment, aiming to engage all stakeholders in education and awareness campaigns to address the root causes of fires and ultimately emphasizing the need for continuous efforts beyond temporary projects. 2021 saw the launch of new European projects, including FIRE-RES and SILVANUS, the latter involving Croatia with a €24 million budget, primarily funded by the European Commission and integrates new technologies, such as augmented-reality programs, drones, ground robots, and sensors.

Tested in a Croatia-based pilot exercise near Rijeka in April 2023, these technologies aim to enhance emergency response and address the specific challenges posed by extreme fires, offering a promising outlook as Croatia faces heightened summer temperatures and the imperative to raise citizen awareness in preventing wildfires.

To delve deeper into Croatia’s journey in tackling wildfires and embracing cutting-edge technologies, read the full article by Chiara Marchesini (OBCT) and discover more about the Wildfires in Europe investigation.

Author: Beatrice Bellavia (Euromontana).