Toward Integrated Fire Management (SSC)

Wageningen UR’s long-term objective with fire research is to help society shift from suppression-based dealings with fire toward an integrative approach of living with fire. This shift can mitigate negative impacts of wildland fires on human and natural environments and facilitate human adaptation to present and future uncontrollable fire types in response to climate change. This can be achieved through our research, along with engagement of and ongoing communication with multiple affected stakeholders, for significant, sustainable impact.


For fire-prone regions (e.g. Mediterranean countries) and those that are less fire-prone (northwestern Europe, northeastern US), wildland fire in combination with climate change and high population densities poses major challenges that must be tackled via integrated management approaches. To stimulate this approach, a knowledge network on fire was created, resulting in the EU-funded Innovative Training Network PyroLife.


Research objectives and approach

WUR’s contribution to PyroLife is rooted in expertise of the SLM group on soil erosion and hydrology. Furthermore, predicting landscape fire vulnerability requires incorporating a landscape view (SGL’s core focus), as affected by fire’s spatial behaviour. Likewise, fire risk and fire impact has a major human (socio-ecological) component.



  • Develop integrative fire management combining Northern European expertise in water management and planning with Southern European experience/knowledge
  • Prepare traditionally non-fire-prone countries (the Netherlands, most of Western Europe) for present and future fires
  • Connect scientific research and stakeholders’ integrated fire management knowledge needs, translating this into applied and fundamental science projects

PyroLife is built upon four axes of diversity (interdisciplinarity, intersectorality, geography, gender) ( PyroLife’s central approach is to foster knowledge exchange between disciplines, sectors (academia and practice) and countries. A total of 22 universities, research institutes, companies, public partners and non-profit organisations collaborate in research and education.

Within WUR, PyroLife’s project takes direct advantage of SGL knowledge on landscape variability, design, pyrogeography and integrated water management. In addition, ongoing work focuses on predicting extreme fires, impacts of small fires and on fire effects on water flow. Other initiatives (with De Vries, Social Sciences and FAO) include EU proposals on trust, on COVID-19 effects on fire management and through INREF seed money on linking fire communities in developed and developing countries.

Stakeholder involvement

Stakeholders involved in WUR’s PyroLife research are Águas de Portugal, Technosylva (developing a Dutch fire spread model with a visiting scholar grant from PE&RC), the Pau Costa Foundation, Arup (multinational company), the European Forestry Institute, Landworks (South Africa) and, together with the Catalan fire service, the EU and beyond (e.g. California, South America) through advice and extreme fire research. Stoof was additionally commissioned by the Province of Noord-Brabant to investigate one of the Netherlands’ largest wildland fires (the Peelbrand), establishing a new network of local residents, fire fighters, land managers and several (semi-) governmental organisations.

Apart from developing new PhD courses for PyroLife, a new interdisciplinary course ‘Pyrogeography’ will train MSc students on Integrated Fire Management from 2022 onwards.

Research Highlights

Since 2014, research has resulted in several highly cited papers in important Soil Science journals (Water Resource Research, Geoderma, the International Journal of Wildland Fire). Furthermore, in the EU-funded Innovative Training Network PyroLife (2019-2023), three WUR groups are directly involved. In addition, work was previously funded by a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship.

Additional highlights

  • Diversity helps fight wildfires. Nature Letter to the Editor.
  • Together with the Institute for Safety (Edwin Kok), Stoof initiated data collection on wildland fire in the Netherlands in 2017. The datasets gathered are used by the EU via the Expert Groups of Forest Fires (of which Kok and Stoof are official delegates for the Netherlands), publicly available here.
  • Stoof is a board member of the IAWF, and is a frequently invited speaker on integrated fire management.


Current research has a direct impact on several levels:

  • Stoof contributed to reports of the EU Expert Group of Forest Fires and was an invited speaker at the Green Deal conference of EU policymakers. British parliament discussed her work (with Technosylva), SGL is developing a fire spread model for the Northern Ireland government, as well as a Dutch model supported by PE&RC graduate school.
  • SGL research findings into the Peelbrand are cited in the upcoming report of the Dutch government’s Court of Audit (Algemene Rekenkamer). Ongoing discussions with policymakers (provinces, safety regions, ministry of agriculture, nature and fisheries) and locals focus on what is needed to make the Netherlands more prepared for large wildland fires.
  • Dr. Stoof actively engages with the general public through public media, resulting in reaching 17.8 million people (57% Dutch) in the year 2020 alone (WUR brand monitor).