World Bank: 9 facts about wildfires in Georgia

Georgia is preparing a new Forest Law to protect its forests. Photo by N. Alavidze/, 29 Mar 2016 - 13:17, Tbilisi,Georgia

As the season changes from winter to spring, the weather patterns change and the risk of fire dangers increases, particularly forest fires, says the World Bank.

The European Union (EU)-funded Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG) II Program, which improves forest management in Georgia and other countries, has presented nine facts about forest fires.

  1. In the past, forest fires occurred relatively seldom and on a smaller scale in Georgia, affecting a few hectares of forests per year. In recent years however this problem has become more serious. At present, fires encompass hundreds of hectares of the country’s forests each year.
  2. Climate change and associated weather patterns (prolonged draughts and increased average temperatures) increase the probability of wild fires.
  3. The fire season in Georgia (when the likelihood of fire occurrence is the highest) usually occurs in the summer months when the temperatures are high.
  4. One of the very common natural triggers of wildfires is lightning. This is especially true in dry areas where dry thunderstorms are common. This is when lightning strikes the ground but the precipitation evaporates before reaching the ground. Lightning can cause seven to 10 percent of wildfires.
  5. Lightning is much more likely to cause a fire in an old forest with a lot of dry trees than in a young forest. For this reason fires caused by natural reasons play an important ecological function; they help the forest regenerate.
  6. Coniferous forests (pine, spruce and fir) are more prone to fire than broadleaves.
  7. Humans are the main cause of wildfires. The majority of forest fires occur on the weekends when people are more likely to spend time outside. A poorly extinguished campfire, a cigarette thrown on a nature trail, children playing with lighters – all this and more can cause a wildfire. If not occurring naturally, forest fires may change the direction of natural forest succession. This could delay the establishment of optimal (site-adapted) forest composition for decades.
  8. Rubbish can also lead to a fire in a forest. Empty glass bottles are especially dangerous. When the sun is shining glass bottles act as a lens, which when hit by the suns’ rays, can cause a fire. For the same reason, any equipment with a strong lens is dangerous. Camera lens left lying for hours on the ground in sunny weather can also cause a fire. It is important to close the camera lens with a lid.
  9. Often people burning grass in spring or autumn causes wildfires. It is a wide-spread myth that after burning old grass in spring, new grass grows faster. This is only partly true: initially grass starts to grow faster on the warmed-up soil but later its growth decreases because the fire has destroyed some of the soil’s nutritional value that makes it fertile.

The FLEG II Program, which was implemented by the World Bank, aimed to improve forest law enforcement and governance in seven countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine. Together these countries have more than 20 percent of the world's forests.

Read an in-depth analysis ‘Georgia makes vital changes to better protect local forests’ on