The cost of Europe’s summer of wildfires: How can governments future-proof against the devastation? 

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Posted 8 months ago

News broke earlier this week that the current wildfire in Greece’s northeast region is the biggest the European Union had ever recorded, as it continues to burn since the 19th August. 

All summer, Europe’s wildfires have burned through thousands of hectares of green space as the continent battles record heat waves for another year, and using data from the EFFIS (European Forest Fire Information System), Distrelec reveals the impact of the European countries worst-hit with wildfires so far in 2023. 

The new research explores the number of hectares lost, the estimated economic impact and, the potential cost of preventative measures governments could put in place to ease spreading:  

Which countries in Europe have been worst affected by wildfires so far in 2023? 

Few European countries have been untouched by wildfires this year, but Distrelec’s research reveals that Greece is the country with the largest area of land burned and the country with the worst estimated economic impact. 

In fact, Greece’s current wildfire in the northeast region has been declared the worst the EU has ever seen, with the EU’s civil protection service saying the fire has burned more than 810 sq km – an area bigger than New York City. 

Burning Forest. California Wildfire Closeup Photo.

Distrelec’s analysis of EFFIS data shows that Greece has seen an estimated 161,008 hectares of land burned so far in 2023 at the time of the report (30th August 2023) – roughly 3.7 times more than the annual average from 2006 to 2021, with estimated costs of €1,663,856,672.

Second was Spain, with an estimated 84,315 hectares of land burned at an estimated cost of €871,311,210.

The research found Italy as the third-worst affected European country, with 66,035 hectares burned, at an estimated cost of €682,405,690.

See the 10 worst affected countries below by hectares burned, CO2 emitted (tonnes), and financial cost: 

CountryHectares burned 2023CO2 emitted as a result (tonnes)Financial cost (euros)
Greece161,008966,048€ 1,663,856,672
Spain84,315505,890€ 871,311,210
Italy66,035396,210€ 682,405,690
Portugal29,096174,576€ 300,678,064
France22,022132,132€ 227,575,348
Romania15,30891,848€ 158,192,872
Bulgaria9,23355,398€ 95,413,822
Ireland4,30225,812€ 44,456,868
Croatia2,52115,126€ 26,052,014
Cyprus1,1226,732€ 11,594,748

Could IoT sensors be the solution? 

The earlier a wildfire is discovered, the easier it is to stop or contain. Although early detection of fires in forested regions is particularly difficult, numerous startups and firms are developing IoT systems using wireless sensors to give early warning of wildfire activity. 

These IoT sensors can bear harsh forest conditions and, according to the ultra early wildfire detection experts, Dryad, volume costs of these sensors will be about €18.30 ($20) each. Using this cost, alongside the forest density of each country (in square km), the team at Distrelec estimated how many IoT sensors each country would need and the estimated cost to help curb wildfires. 

The research estimates that wildfires in Europe have cost an estimated €4.1billion (€4,112,704,652) so far this year, yet the IoT wireless sensors that can trigger early warnings of wildfire activity could cost a marginal €1.9million (€1,885,379) to purchase across the 23 worst affected countries. 

For Greece, the estimated cost of these IoT sensors is just € 47,601.96: 34,954 times less than the estimated cost of wildfires so far this year. 

See the full estimate IoT costs for the 10 worst affected European countries below: 

CountryForest density (sq km)Number of sensors requiredTotal estimated cost of sensors 
Greece39,0182,601€ 47,601.96
Spain185,721.712,381€ 226,580.47
Italy95,661.36,377€ 116,706.79
Portugal33,1202,208€ 40,406.40
France172,53011,502€ 210,486.60
Romania69,290.54,619€ 84,534.41
Bulgaria38,9302,595€ 47,494.60
Ireland7,820.2521€ 9,540.64
Croatia19,391.101,293€ 23,657.14
Cyprus1,725.30115€ 2,104.87