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Enhancement and maintenance plan of forest firebreaks by prescribed burning

New network of forest firebreaks in the regional forest "La Merse"

D.R.E.Am. Italia has been the first in Italy to develop a plan providing for enhancement and maintenance of forest firebreaks by prescribed burning.

The forest firebreaks of this area, designed and implemented at the end of 1960’s, needed to be redesigned in the light of meteorological conditions change, of fuel models variation, and of maintenance sustainability.

This innovative project took into consideration the old network of forest firebreaks (30 firebreaks, 42 km, 85 hectares), redesigning and enhancing it through activities related to present fuel models and to local fires behaviour.

The resulting new network is made of 18 forest firebreaks, 27 km and 53 hectares. Improvement and maintenance every four years have been designed, when possible, by using prescribed burning, and by defining measures, operational procedures and methods.

D.R.E.Am. Italia, in collaboration with the Region of Tuscany and the University of Florence, monitors also areas where prescribed burning activities have been carried out, contributing on degree thesis that cover study of prescribed burning effects on vegetation, fauna and soil.

Forest firebreak of the regional forest

Works to be performed in order to meet enhancement requirements prescribe the construction of a safety firebreak made by mechanical means, which is parallel to routes at 20 to 40 metres away from them, according to slopes exposure and the direction from where fires come, based upon historical analysis and prevailing winds.

Between firebreaks and safety line these works provide for undergrowth management and thinning of pinus pinaster up to a 80 to 100 trees/hectare density.

Below the forest profile before the enhancement provided for in the plan.

Below the profile that the forest is going to have after these enhancement works. It is possible to notice the two safety lines, thinning and ground clearance that is carried out by prescribed burning techniques. Usually on the western slope the distance between the safety line and the belt without vegetation is 40 metres, as historically fires come from those slopes, facilitated by slopes and favourable exposure.

Below some pictures and a video of prescribed burning operations in one of the firebreaks of La Merse.