Mount Etna fire

A Decade of Devastation: Global Wildfires Annihilate 202 Million Acres of Forests

The past ten years have witnessed a catastrophic devastation of global forests due to wildfires, burning approximately 202 million acres of land.

The data from Global Forest Watch, an open-source web application monitoring global forests, reveals that the most disastrous fires occurred in Australia, Russia, Canada, and the US, causing environmental havoc and irreparable damage.

The wildfires of 2016 marked a gruesome record, incinerating around 9.63 million hectares (23.8 million acres) of forests worldwide. However, even this stark figure pales in comparison to the individual calamities that struck the above-mentioned nations.

In Australia, between September 2019 and early 2020, bushfires raged across New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, and South Australia, claiming 479 lives and burning over 24 million hectares (59.3 million acres). The Royal Commission on Natural Disaster Regulations estimates that this disaster resulted in over $10 billion in damages, the destruction of 3,000 homes, and the death or displacement of nearly three billion animals. This has been recorded as the world’s largest forest fire in the last ten years.

Russia also suffered colossal damage in 2021 when wildfires annihilated more than 18.16 million hectares (44.87 million acres) of forests. The scale of this disaster surpassed the country’s largest wildfire of 2012, which burned 18.11 million hectares (44.75 million acres).

82m Hectares forestland burnt

Presently, Canada grapples with a fire that began in May 2023 and continues to burn, making it one of the most extensive wildfires in the past decade. Even in the middle of the fire season, the country has already lost more than 10 million hectares (24.71 million acres) of forestland. Over 155,000 Canadians have been forced to evacuate their homes, and the smoke from the fires has caused air quality issues across North America.

Meanwhile, the US, known for its annual wildfires, especially in California, suffered its most extensive wildfire in 2020 when over 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres) burned during the fire season.

In Europe, Greece, Algeria, and Italy are currently battling wildfires. In Greece, a week-old fire on Rhodes Island continues to spread uncontrollably, leading to the largest evacuation operation ever carried out in the country. In Algeria, the number of fatalities due to forest fires in 11 cities has reached 34, and in Italy’s southern regions, wildfires rage on, causing four fatalities and the evacuation of 1,500 people.

The world is at a critical juncture. As interventions are underway to combat these wildfires, it has become more crucial than ever to intensify our collective efforts in forest conservation and strategic fire management to safeguard our planet’s future. (AA)

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