Protecting People and Societies from the Threat of Wildfires

Jun 28, 2024

Wildfires were in focus on several sessions at the IUFRO World Congress showcasing a wide selection of studies from across the world. Researchers Marta Serra, geographer at Forest Science & Technology Centre of Catalonia (CTFC) in Spain and Marc-André Parisien from Natural Resources Canada presented their findings in the session “Implementing fire-resilient landscapes”.

Marc-André Parisien, who works for the Canadian Forest Service, talks about the forest fire season 2023 in North America.

“Specifically, in Canada, we had a record fire season, where about 15 million hectares were burned, more than twice the previous record. There were fires all across the country. Some were very large, and there were some quite significant ecological and social impacts.”

He describes an extremely stressful situation with fires burning for five months.

“It was relentless. There were dangerous levels of smoke, fatalities and very high-stress situations with lots of evacuations from communities. Nationally, it was a traumatic experience.”

The extreme fire season taught the researchers many things with respect to fire behaviour, ecological impacts and the ability to live with wildfire.

“It left us with a lot more questions than answers and will pave the way for some interesting studies.”

What can be done to prevent wildfires from a landscape perspective to protect people and societies?

“You can never fully eliminate wildfires in Canada or Northern forests. You need to learn to live with fires.”

There are several tools that you can use to protect yourself, he explains.

“You can, for example, retrofit your house and your yard to be less fire-prone and manage the vegetation around your communities. It’s a lot of work and expensive, but quite effective. And you can put more fire in the landscape, so you’re fighting fire with fire, which has been used in North America for millennia by indigenous peoples.”

Marta Serra studies forest wildfires from a socio-ecological perspective. She is currently working on two Horizon2020 projects at the European level that are called Firelogue and FIRE-RES, developing and coordinating innovation actions related to wildfire risk management and fire resilient and resistant landscapes in Europe.

She is also researching nature-based solutions for wildfire risk management.

In the Mediterranean context, bioeconomy activities like grazing and other measures for the reduction of fuel load also help to prevent wildfires. Other mitigating measures are prescribed burns and mosaic landscapes, which could prevent wildfires.

“We are talking a lot about the need for a mosaic landscape in Catalonia to reduce the wildfire risk. The crops are breaking the forest land cover, which mitigates the risks of forest fires. Since fires act at a landscape scale, they also need to be managed at a landscape scale.”


“In the Mediterranean countries we have been dealing with fires for a very long time and have developed an advanced knowledge about the behaviour of forest-fires. It is necessary to exchange knowledge on forest-fires between countries, not just in this type of research congress, but also exchange between fire-fighters in different countries. We need to open our perspectives.”

She also explains how some forest fires in the Mediterranean region are now starting to behave differently.

“We are seeing new types of fires that we do not understand yet and there is a need for new knowledge, which I why we are engaged in international exchange with Chile and Portugal and other countries.”

She highlights the platform Pau Costa Foundation works with for the exchange of knowledge on wildfire management and prevention at the international level.

She also highlights tree-planting initiatives in relation to fuel loads.

“There are many positive effects of trees, but it could also be dangerous and a bit risky in relation to wildfires. We must integrate the wildfire risk in our planning to reduce these risks.”

More on this topic


FIRE-RES – Innovative solutions for fire resilient territories in Europe

Pau Costa Foundation ※ Fire prevention research

Poster: T1.16 Addressing policy coherence towards integrated wildfire risk management in the European Union