EU doubles firefighting fleet to address climate change impacts

firefighting

The EU has doubled the number of firefighting resources across Europe in preparation for expected extreme summer heatwaves.

The rescEU firefighting aircraft reserve includes 24 airplanes and 4 helicopters from 10 Member States. In addition, Austria, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia will be sending almost 450 firefighters to be pre-positioned in France, Greece, and Portugal.

Following the calls from EU Ministers and the European Parliament, in 2022 the Commission developed also a Wildfire Prevention Action Plan. This action plan aims to improve administrative capacity; improve knowledge; and increase investments in wildfire prevention action.

As part of the prevention action plan, the EU is launching today a new Wildfire Peer Review Assessment Methodology. This new tool helps countries assess their capacity to prevent and prepare for wildfires, and supports the exchange of good practices among European countries, within the framework of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

In addition, an Emergency Response Coordination Centre Wildfires Support Team is being created to enable near-real-time monitoring and analysis of the wildfire situation from mid-June to mid-September.

“Wildfires have become a pan-European concern,” Janez Lenarčič, EU commissioner for crisis management said. “They gravely affect lives, livelihoods and the environment. In total, 20 EU Member States recorded more burned areas than average in 2022. The wildfire risk expanded to areas that have not previously been exposed, moving well beyond the Mediterranean region. This increase in wildfires requires decisive and prompt action also at EU level. I thank all the countries involved in boosting the EU’s response this wildfire season. At the same time, I call upon the Member States to also strengthen wildfire preventive action. ”

Wildfire prevention, preparedness and response actions work hand in hand to save lives, livelihoods and protect the environment. Having experienced wildfire experts, well-trained firefighters, information technology and sufficient response assets available makes a difference.

The EU ensures a coordinated approach to preventing, preparing and responding to wildfires when those overwhelm national response capacities. When the scale of a wildfire overwhelms the response capabilities of a country, it can request assistance via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

Once activated, the EU’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre coordinates and finances assistance made available by EU Member States and 9 additional participating states through spontaneous offers.

In addition, the EU has created the European Civil Protection Pool to have a critical number of readily available civil protection capacities allowing for a stronger and coherent collective response.

Should the emergency require additional, life-saving firefighting assistance, the rescEUfirefighting reserve steps in to provide additional capacities to confront disasters in Europe.

The Emergency Response Coordination Centre also monitors the evolution of wildfires with the support of early warning systems such as the European Forest Fire Information System, while the EU’s Copernicus emergency satellite mapping service complements operations with detailed information from space. 

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