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Kosovo*: Forest Fire Country Study

Context

This study on forest fires 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.

Fire history

Up to 2012, forest fires had affected around 12,200 ha of forest, or 2.5 percent of the total forest area. One of the most severe forest fire seasons in the last 10 years was in 2012, when 49 fires, affecting over 40 ha, were registered in Kosovo*, and around 8,376 ha of burned area was mapped using satellite technology.

Main recommendations

The existing laws and legal acts that regulate forest fire protection need to be harmonised. The issue of forest fires is currently regulated by different laws implemented by different institutions, thus there are some overlapping competencies, uncertainties in procedures and a lack of tools for coordinating activities between institutions. There are no specialised, well-trained forest firefighters, and no educational institutes for training decision makers, planners, command staff or firefighters. In order to improve this situation, a special programme should be created for training existing firefighters and new personnel. This is equally important for both the Kosovo Forest Agency and the Emergency Management Agency (EMA), and is also related to findings regarding current legal regulations. There is also a lack of special vehicles for forest fire suppression. In particular, there are no first-response vehicles in the forestry sector and no off-road fire trucks in the framework of the EMA. There is no voluntary fire protection organisation in Kosovo*. One of the ways in which members of the local population can be actively involved in fire protection (including forest fire protection) is through the establishment of voluntary organisations. Through the activities of such an organisation, people of all ages can be engaged in forest fire protection (i.e. in prevention, pre-suppression and suppression). This is one of the best ways to raise public awareness, increase the preparedness of local communities for forest fire suppression, and address the problem of the lack of personnel in the relevant institutions. One of the preconditions for defining the level of preparedness of the institutions responsible for forest fire protection during the fire season is the existence of an appropriate early warning system. Such a system in Kosovo* would allow the institutions responsible for forest fire protection to be more efficient and better organised.

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.
Forest Fires