In this article we argue that the growing occurrence and impacts of forest fires in Catalonia can be mainly attributed not to climate change or individual misbehavior but to the decline of the landscape mosaic that has historically characterized Mediterranean rural areas. Recent socio-economic change has resulted in an uncontrolled growth of the forest masses in turn facilitating the propagation of large fires. Forest fire policy has reacted compulsively after the great fire waves of the last decades overemphasizing extinction to the detriment of prevention, and individual education to the detriment of a more comprehensive rural development planning. This option reflects a biased analysis of causality, which we examine in the context of the hazard chain developed by researchers at Clark University. Using the example of the Bages County in central Catalonia we outline the problems associated with the conventional approach to forest fire management and also the difficulties faced by alternative choices. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
- Forest fires