Press report

In context

Published on 06 September 2022

In short

In recent years we have seen exceptional fires in terms of both size and number and the fire season has been extended, starting earlier in the hot season and continuing late into the autumn. From Australia to the Amazon, from Greece to California, the world’s forests are burning.

As the risk factors multiply, increasing pressure is put on these highly valuable ecosystems. Fire risk has dramatically increased with climate change and human activities, putting plant and animal life as well as our entire society in danger.

INRAE has long been working on the issues associated with forest fires,fielding two leading research units on the topic: one in Aix-en-Provence (RECOVER) and the other in Avignon (URFM).

These two units together host 13 scientists who, between them, have published some 60 scientific papers since 2016, while working on around thirty research projects. During this same period, the teams have built many European and international partnerships, with Australia and the United States in particular and two international ForestFire conferences have been organised (Aix-en-Provence, 2016 and Marseille, 2019).

The understanding, prediction and anticipation of fire risk, support for public policy and decision making, as well as support for forest regeneration form the three pillars of INRAE’s work in this area and have allowed the Institute to build productive working partnerships across France, particularly that formed with Météo France and the ONF (the French National Forests Office) to predict fire risk.

What follows is a brief snapshot of the research and experiments that our teams continue to develop in order to improve our understanding of fires, to protect and anticipate them, and to help ecosystems to adapt and recover.


  • Combustibility: ability of vegetation to burn and spread fire.
  • Extreme fires: fires that are not only of exceptional size (> 10,000 hectares burned), but are above all defined by their impact: collapse of the emergency response system and deep and long-term impacts on society, the economy and the environment.
  • Ignition: fire ignition, mostly as the consequence of humans (behaviours, social factors), but sometimes due to natural phenomena such as lightning strikes.
  • Forest fire: at least 0.5 continuous hectare of forest is affected by the flames and at least a part of the canopy is destroyed. By extension, it also includes fires affecting particular types of wildland habitats found in France such as the maquis, garrigue and landes.
  • Flammability: ability of the vegetation to ignite and burn from a source of heat.
  • Wildland/urban interface: transitional zone between wildland and human settlements and/or development.
  • Ornamental vegetation: vegetation surrounding dwellings in wildland/urban interfaces, including both local and exotic species