2022 has been the most successful in terms of fire management and prevention efforts for decades, the forestry department said Monday.

Of the 179 fires that broke out on lands managed by the forestry department, only 57 were forest fires, and burned a total area of 30 hectares (0.3km²), the smallest in 20 years, while the average area burned per fire was 0.5 hectares, again the smallest in 20 years.

The area of state forest burned was the smallest on record since 1960 while the percentage of wildfires was the smallest in a decade. The largest recorded fire of the year resulted in the smallest burnt area in the last 20 recorded largest fires (3.6 hectares).

The 179 fires burned a total of 143 hectares.

Although the number of fires was 18 per cent higher than the 2012-2021 average (152 fires), the actual burnt area was 77 per cent lower (611 hectares). The average burnt area per fire outbreak for 2022, was 0.8 hectares, while the average for the decade was 4 hectares, a reduction of 80 per cent.

Aside from forest fires, the remaining 122 fires broke out on agricultural lands, burning a total area of 114 hectares.

Due to the rapid intervention of the fire services, the fires were extinguished before spreading to forested areas and were just 31 per cent of the total, the lowest in a decade, which is one of the best indicators that the system works, the forestry department said.

Additionally, the forestry department also assisted in extinguishing 29 rural and 38 agricultural fires, in areas not under its direct management.

As for the causes of forest fires, the department’s data showed the vast majority are due to human activity, with intentionally set and unintentional fires due to negligence being identical in frequency (44 per cent). The third cause is lightning (12 per cent).

“[These] results in areas for which the forestry department is responsible are judged to be exceptional,” the department said.

The main factors that contributed to such excellent results, according to the ministry of agriculture, is the improvement of the operational capacity of the forestry department in terms of planning, organisation, and strengthening of the forest fire response system.

Improved tactics include the evaluation of each episode from time ‘zero’ and the immediate mobilisation of the required number of fire fighters, as well as the recourse to a backup force enabled by increasing the number firefighters stationed in forests.

The situation was helped by excellent cooperation between the various services but also by favourable weather conditions, that is, a rainy winter and a relatively mild summer, the department added.