Significant steps to bolster the EU’s firefighting efforts

Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0 Author: Sthivaios
Wildfires in Greece, 2023.

As Europe braces for the imminent wildfire season, the EU is making monumental strides in fortifying firefighting efforts and safeguarding communities. This includes the strategic deployment of firefighters and the establishment of a substantial fleet of firefighting aircraft.

The EU plays a pivotal role in coordinating responses to wildfires that surpass national capacities. In instances where assistance is required, countries can invoke the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. The European Civil Protection Pool amalgamates resources from 27 Member States and participating states, fostering swifter and more efficient responses to disasters.

Proactively, 556 firefighters from 12 countries will be strategically prepositioned across key locations in Europe this summer, including Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Portugal, and Spain. They will be ready to help local fire brigades. This proactive measure enhances Europe’s readiness to combat wildfires and mitigate their devastating impact on lives, homes, and the environment. It underscores the robustness of EU solidarity in addressing such crises.

Second, the EU has assembled this summer’s dedicated rescEU fleet of firefighting aircraft. The fleet comprises 28 airplanes and four helicopters stationed in 10 Member States. The Commission has allocated a total of €600 million in March to facilitate the acquisition of 12 new firefighting planes in the future. These planes will be distributed among six EU Member States. In addition, the EU will finance several helicopters in the future to reinforce the EU aerial firefighting fleet.

The prepositioning of firefighters and the acquisition of additional firefighting aircraft underscore the EU’s dedication to bolstering its capacity to respond effectively to wildfires, particularly during the upcoming summer months.

“It has been a couple of years since the European Commission has initiated the process to scale up aerial firefighting capacities in Europe. I congratulate Croatia as well as Greece, who were the earliest to sign into reality the first planes of what will form a new generation of European firefighting aerial capacity,” stated Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management.

“I thank Canada for facilitating these agreements with the company concerned resuming production of these very much needed planes. This is an important step to acquiring the aircraft which will help protect citizens not just in Croatia and Greece but across Europe. It will be 100% paid for by the European Commission as part of our strengthened rescEU firefighting capacity ready to fight ever more intense wildfires in Europe,” Commissioner Lenarčič added.

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