What‘s going on?
In Turkey, eight people have been killed by the fires so far. In most places the fire brigade is now under control, but not everywhere yet. Especially near Bodrum, Marmaris and Manavgat, the situation is still dangerous.
Greece is also in trouble due to fires and heat. “It’s really very hot,” says Greece correspondent Conny Keessen. “Last week it was 40 degrees, in some areas it got even warmer. And, according to meteorologists, the heat lasts for at least another week.” In two days, there were more than 100 forest fires.
On the Italian island of Sicily, the fire brigade is still busy extinguishing forest fires. The same goes for the southern regions of mainland Italy. In Pescara, a coastal town near the Adriatic Sea it was chaos, correspondent Heleen D‘Haens says: “More than 800 people have been evacuated there. Nuns in a monastery, people from a nursing home. There has been total chaos in traffic there. railways. People had to wait in the heat.”
Why are those fires so big?
Cathalijne Stoof is a forest fire expert and says it has to do with a changing climate. “With that climate change, we expect longer periods of drought.” And at the same time, it’s very warm too. Like now in Turkey, Greece and Italy.
According to climate scientist and weatherman Peter Kuipers Munnike, heat waves are more common and more extreme as the Earth heats up further. “That means we‘re going to be dealing with more fires and the fires will last longer,” Stoof explains. “There’s actually always fire. But with climate change, we expect extreme fires to occur more often,” says the forest fire expert.
For that reason, scientists also think that the fires are getting closer to the Netherlands.
What can you do about those fires?
According to the forest fire expert, we are now focusing on stopping the fire when it‘s there. But that has to be different, she thinks. “In case of floods, we won’t mop with the crane open either.”
That‘s why she thinks that sometimes you need to burn off a piece of ground in a controlled manner. But only if that’s not close to people who can get a lot of trouble. As has happened in Turkey now. “If that same fire were in a place where there are no people and where there are no important roads, then such a fire isn‘t bad at all.”
That doesn’t really apply to the Netherlands, she thinks. Because our country is a densely populated area and there isn‘t really room for controlled fires. Even though it might be possible in spring, the forest fire expert says: “For example, if such a fire takes place in early spring. When the soil is still wet, flames half a meter high.” According to Stoof, that’s a fire that you can burn well controlled.
Such a quiet fire is good for nature again, she says. “Because they can clean up the landscape.” If an unplanned fire breaks out, there are fewer combustible things in the landscape. And then such a fire might be less violent and quicker to stop.