Republic of Albania: Forest Fire Country Study
This study on forest fires in Albania is one of six country studies prepared under the project “Addressing the risks of forest fires in South Eastern Europe”, implemented in the framework of the ENVSEC Initiative in synergy with the Themis Network, and with funding from ADA. The project explores the status quo and forest fire risks in South Eastern Europe (SEE), as well as the policy and institutional responses currently in place. It also identifies gaps and needs in the context of those responses.
The SEE region is likely to be negatively affected by climate change, especially as a result of changes in water availability, regional warming and changed precipitation patterns. This means that, in all probability, future summer precipitation in SEE will be concentrated in fewer, more intense events, occurring between longer, dry periods, thus enhancing the risk of both intense soil erosion and severe forest fires.
Between 2004 and 2013, the annual average burned area in Albania was recorded as 2,731 ha of forests; 50 ha of (non-forest) protected areas; and 2,000 ha of other vegetation (e.g. wetlands). Recorded damage included 15 houses burned; four high-voltage pylons damaged; and 23 people injured. Each year around 200 ha of olive trees and other agricultural crops are also reported as burned. However, the real situation might be even worse. In 2007, for example, when fires were monitored by satellite, the situation was shown to be more negative than the figures reported by the responsible authorities.
Studies have shown that 29 percent of forest fires were caused by negligence; 61 percent by unknown factors; 9 percent by arson; and only 1 percent by unusual events and lightning. However, it should be recognised that even those forest fires classified as “caused by unknown factors” can be considered to have been started as a result of human activity. They are classified under “unknown factors” as the precise cause is not known, but it can still be concluded that a large proportion of forest fires in Albania are started by human activities.
Main recommendations for Albania
A large number of institutions and organisations, both public and private, are involved in the protection of forests from fire in Albania. In some cases, this may even be the main reason for the high number of fires and the large burned areas in some fire seasons. Problems arise when such a large number of authorised institutions and organisations act at different levels. The existing regulations need to be reviewed and adjusted. Competencies must be made clear, with no overlapping, and procedures must be precisely established.
The network of forest roads should be expanded in order to mitigate the negative consequences of Albania's steep terrain and fragmented topography. Firefighters should also be provided with the necessary equipment, especially off-road vehicles. More training should be provided to the personnel involved in firefighting and the role and capacity of volunteer firefighters should also be improved.