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Global crisis unleashed: 2023's devastating forest fires gripped globe

ANKARA, December 26 ------ Forest fires in 2023 resulted in deaths and injuries to hundreds of people, causing extensive damage, loss of forest areas and carbon emissions. 


Anadolu's "Disasters of 2023" special series covers the biggest forest fires of the year. Forest fires, particularly in Canada, the US, and Greece, have led to serious destruction, hundreds of casualties and the evacuation of thousands of residents worldwide. According to the EU's Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), forest fires in Canada, which started in May and lasted for months, led to about 480 megatons of carbon emissions. CAMS noted a significant increase in emissions caused by the fires in Greece and Eastern Mediterranean. 


Canada's largest forest fires in history 

The fires in Canada set records as the largest in the country's history and among the largest worldwide in the last 10 years. According to data from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC), the extent of land affected by the fires surpassed the approximately 7.6 million hectares (18,780,008 acres) that were turned to ash in the 1989 forest fires, reaching the highest in its history. The forested area affected by forest fires in Canada is around 18.5 million hectares, surpassing the sizes of South Korea and Cuba combined. The Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta were most affected by this year's fires. Officials reported battling 2,217 fires in British Columbia, with approximately 25,000 square kilometers of forests, shrubs, and grasslands burned. 


Smoke reaches US, Europe 

Smoke from Canadian forest fires reached the northeastern US states and the western coasts of Europe. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shared images indicating the arrival of smoke from Alberta's fires at the US-Canada border. CAMS also said smoke clouds had reached Europe from the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean. 


Greatest disaster in Hawaii 

In forest fires that broke out in the wooded area of Maui Island, Hawaii, in early August, 100 people were killed, marking the deadliest forest fires in the US in the last 100 years. Gov. Josh Green said around 2,200 structures were destroyed, causing an estimated $6 billion in damages. President Joe Biden also declared the island a disaster zone. 


Greece fires, largest in 20 years 

The fire that began Aug. 19, claimed 21 lives and became Greece's largest forest fire in the last two decades. According to the Greek Meteorological Department, the burned forested area exceeded 720,000 acres in two regions. Among the 16 largest fires in the last 20 years, the fire covered the widest area and was noted as the largest fire recorded in European territories in recent years. 


Other fires 

In forest fires that affected central and southern Chile in February, 24 people lost their lives, and more than 400,000 hectares, along with hundreds of homes, turned to ash. In the fires that erupted in southern Italy at the end of July, four people were killed and thousands evacuated to safe areas. In Tenerife, part of Spain's southwestern Canary Islands, five villages were evacuated in August due to forest fires, with 12,000 residents displaced, and over 8,000 hectares burned.    




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