Every year more than 50 million ha of forest is burnt down, from which more than 10 million ha are boreal forest and 40 million tropical rain forest. These fires have an important impact on the destruction of vegetation, on atmospheric pollution (greenhouse effect), and directly on human lives. Only a minor part of these are natural vegetation fires, caused by lightning, volcanism etc. The major part is ignited by human beings.
Wild fires are an essential threat to forest resources and human population in large areas of the world. Very often, the cities or villages do not follow continuously the surroundings of the cities to get early warning of the approaching forest or bush fires. In many cases the authorities do not have any fire observation and alert system to send/receive the warning messages. Therefore, the alerts to the population and to the rescue forces often come too late.
Finland has to protect our green gold from several threats. One of the biggest potential threats is a vast forest fire - the phenomenon that we all are familiar with in the past few years in the different parts of the world. The total area of Finland is 337 000 square kilometres. Forests cover 74 percent of the total area i.e. 25 million hectares.
In Finland the average burned area has been decreasing every decade from the 1950s up to 1980s. However, in the 1990s the number of forest fires has been growing as well as the average burned area. During the last four years we have had on average 1253 forest fires per year and the average burned area has been 1034 hectares annually.