The deadliest US wildfires in over a century have killed more than 100 people in Hawaii, destroyed or damaged more than 2,200 buildings and caused an estimated US$5.5 billion in losses, grabbing global headlines about the effects of climate change.

The Maui wildfire ravaged the resort town of Lahaina in August, charring a 5 square-mile (13 square-km) area in hours and burning so ferociously that even metal structures melted.

The Hawaii disaster came soon after wildfires drove tourists to flee their hotels in Greece and major cities were blanketed in smoke from blazes in Canada, where fires have engulfed parts of nearly all 13 provinces and territories this year.

Wildfires are increasing in frequency and severity across the world, found a May 2023 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group of 38 countries.

The duration of the fire weather season has lengthened by 27 per cent globally since 1979 and wildfires have become more frequent, OECD researchers said. In Australia, for example, wildfire frequency has doubled since 1980.

What can countries do to combat wildfire risks?

In the past two decades, at-risk countries have increased resources to suppress wildfires up to four-fold, but they have had limited success in containing damage.

Healthy ecosystems are more resilient and less prone to wildfire ignition and spread, so protecting and restoring degraded forests and peatlands has become a key element in many countries’ wildfire prevention efforts, the OECD said.

Limiting illegal and unsustainable land use, and the scaling up of monitoring and enforcement efforts, is also vital.

Better land-use planning and building rules and standards are key to protecting lives and assets, and play a key role in containing wildfire risk and impacts, the report said.

Up-to-date information on wildfire hazard, exposure and vulnerability can help to better assess future wildfire risk while also inform prevention and preparedness decisions.

Coordination, collaboration and the exchange of knowledge across sectors and levels of government also need to be strengthened, the OECD added.

But there is no solution for bringing fire frequency back down to historical levels without drastically cutting greenhouse gas emissions, GFW researchers said.

Read the full article about preventing wildfires at Eco-Business.