Bosnia and Herzegovina: Forest Fire Country Study
This study on forest fires in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) 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.
Although forest fires are a significant negative ecological factor in BiH, in the last decade it has been difficult to carry out a good-quality analysis, mainly because statistical data on fires and burned areas are not collected in the same way in the country's three entities (the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republika Srpska and Brcko District). The total area of forest and forest land burned by forest fires in the period 2010 to 2012 is estimated to be around 85,906.47 ha, and the number of fires is around 10,091. There are no official data about the economic losses caused by forest fires, although unofficially they are estimated at between EUR 2 and 10 million per year. According to the Joint Research Centre (JRC) annual report for 2013, the 2013 fire season in BiH was not severe, with the total burned area estimated at around 2,560 ha of forest and forest land. There are no valid and official data for the main causes of forest fires in the country. According to some unofficial sources, the main reasons for forest fires are agricultural burning (field clearing in spring and stubble burning in summer) and negligence when lighting fires in or near forests. There are some cases of arson, but these have not been proved as there was no official investigation or court verdict. Lightning is a minor cause of forest fires.
Main recommendations for Bosnia and Herzegovinia
The unique political structure of BiH has an impact on the functioning of its public institutions and on all areas of public life, including forestry protection and forest fire prevention. As a consequence, a large number of institutions (at state, federal, cantonal and municipal level) are involved in forest fire protection. In order to organise their activities and competences, there are also a large number of legal acts (laws, by-laws, rulebooks etc.). The harmonisation of the most important legal acts among entities and institutions should therefore be ensured. This is one of the most important preconditions for the better functioning of the forest fire protection system in BiH.
The creation of an early warning system for forest fires may significantly improve preparedness for forest fire protection in BiH. At present there is no early warning system, with the exception of the possibility to use the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS). This system can only be seen as a temporary solution, and the need for a national early warning system remains.
There is also a need to ensure the existence of well-trained firefighters and appropriate vehicles for forest fire suppression. Special vehicles (fire trucks, aerial means such as aeroplanes and/or helicopters) for forest fire suppression must be procured using the same approach in the different entities. This should contribute to a harmonised and functional system of forest fire protection.
One of the main problems in BiH is the existence of areas contaminated by landmines. The current area contaminated by landmines is estimated at around 1,176.5 km2, or 2.3 percent of BiH territory, of which 129,774.6 ha or 10.5 percent are forests or forest land. This represents a particular problem for the implementation of forest fire protection measures. As a first task, all areas contaminated with landmines should be precisely mapped. A second task is to work towards identifying the most appropriate way to manage these areas in order to reduce the risk of forest fires, and the most appropriate means of fire suppression.