Forest Fire Commission meeting.  Group shot in snow storm Austria December 2023
15 Feb 2024

Extreme fires in focus for Forest Fire Commission meeting in Austria


This is the report from the CTIF Forest Fire Commission meeting, in Telfs, Austria, from 5 to 7 of December 2023. The host country of this year's meeting was Austria, specifically the Austrian Fire Fighters Association and our colleague Jorg Dex Degenhart. 

A total of 12 countries participated, three of them for the first time. France, Germany, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Austria, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Croatia and Greece participated, with new entries from Portugal, Norway and Denmark

Unfortunately, our colleagues from Belgium and Finland couldn’t join us due to technical problems in the airport of Munich. This was the most dynamic country organization in our recent years, with the largest number of participants (over 30 people) and number of countries.

Presentations of lessons learned from Fire Season 2023

Presentations were made from all countries regarding the lessons learned and the good techniques from the previous fire season 2023 mainly for the occurrence of "extreme" forest fires which in recent years have made their presence felt throughout the world and Europe, confirming the concerns of scientists about the climate crisis and its catastrophic consequences. 


Fire clouds in Greece - the largest fire in Europe

The countries showed particular interest in the fire behaviour of the forest fires in Greece last summer and mainly about the Alexandroupolis fire. Alexandroupolis fire started in 19 of August 23 in Greece, with additional another starting point in 21 of August 23, was a wind and plume-driven fire, mostly developed as a crown fire, with very high intensity, mass spread over very long distances and the creation of fire clouds, creating an extreme fire behavior, making firefighting operations extremely dangerous and finding the crews unprepared to face something that was impossible to stop. 

This fire burned in total according to the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS) 93.881 ha, making it, the biggest fire in Europe.

It is noted that during this year's firefighting season the phenomenon of forest fires was very intense mainly in Greece, while Mediterranean countries such as France, Portugal and Croatia did not face the same phenomena. Conversely, instead of forest fires, the Slovenians also had to deal with floods from the same bad weather that hit Greece at the beginning of September.

Presentations were made also by the host country about their personnel, their structure, their organization, as well as guided tours, visits to the Volunteer Training Center in Telfs, to Fire Stations and Volunteers Stations from the greater Innsbruck area. 

We also visited the Innsbruck Coordination Center where it works 24/7 and collects all the Austrian emergency numbers 122 (Fire), 140 (mountain rescue) and 144 (EMS), while 112 in Austria is managed
by the Police.

A special and very inventive presentation and video which was meant for recruiting volunteer firefighters in Austria, focusing on very young ages, through their public education programs.

During the last day there was a press conference of the board of the commission by Austrian TV and media about the role and the goals of our Forest Fire Commission, but also the challenges we will face in the future and concern climate change and forest fires.

Finally, issues were discussed that have to do with our internal cooperation and participation and mainly concerns forest fires in European projects and in Erasmus plus programs. 

Specifically, the Erasmus plus programs concern the creation of educational programs for the exchange of know-how, in this case between the members of the countries of the CTIF Forest Fire Commission.