EXPLAINER: What's behind Europe's spate of deadly wildfires?

A local resident fights a forest fire with a shovel during a wildfire in Tabara, north-west Spain, July 19, 2022. Major wildfires in Europe are starting earlier in the year, becoming more frequent, doing more damage and getting harder to stop. And, scientists say, they're probably going to get worse as climate change intensifies unless countermeasures are taken. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue, File)

LISBON, Portugal (AP) - Major wildfires in Europe are starting earlier in the year, becoming more frequent, doing more damage and getting harder to stop.

And, scientists say, they're probably going to get worse as climate change intensifies unless countermeasures are taken.

A mass migration of Europeans from the countryside to cities in recent decades has left neglected woodland at the mercy of the droughts and heat waves that are increasingly common amid global warming. One tiny spark can unleash an inferno.

Fighting forest fires in Europe has never been so hard. Here's why:

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WHAT'S CAUSING EUROPE'S WILDFIRES?

The continent's so-called rural exodus since the second half of the last century, as Europeans moved to cities in search of a better life, has left significant areas of countryside neglected and vulnerable.

Woodland is littered with combustible material, says Johann Goldammer, head of the Global Fire Monitoring Center, an advisory body to the United Nations.