European Union helps fight forest fires in Italy and France

European Union helps fight forest fires in Italy and France

26 July 2009

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Europe —

As forest fires rage across much of southern Europe, Italy and France have requested assistance through the European Civil Protection Mechanism to fight fires in Corsica and Sardinia. The European reserve of fire fighting aircraft has been used in Corsica and is currently in use in Sardinia to help national forces tackle the fires.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “The European reserve of forest fire fighting aircraft, which we established with the support of the European Parliament, is a great example of European added value in responding to natural disasters like forest fires. It is important to make sure we have the right tools at our disposal to react to any type of emergency situation. Solidarity among Member States remains at the heart of our cooperation in disasters.”

Forest fires are raging in many areas of Southern Europe. Spain, Italy, France and Greece are all affected. At least seven lives have been lost and thousands of hectares have been burnt. The hot and dry weather conditions combined with high winds are hampering efforts to control the fires in Italy, Spain, Greece and France.

In response to the requests for assistance from France and Italy, the European reserve of fire-fighting planes, consisting of two planes, has been used in Corsica and Sardinia to reinforce national means stretched by the ferocity of the fires. Established only this summer as a pilot project, the reserve capacity is designed to strengthen Europe’s response to major forest fires.

European Forest Fire Tactical Reserve

In 2008, the European Parliament earmarked € 3.5 million for a pilot project to step up cooperation between Member States on combating forest fires. As a result of the pilot project, two Canadair CL‑215 fire-fighting aircraft – the European Forest Fire Tactical Reserve – are available this summer (from 1 July – 30 September) to assist Member States facing major forest fires, if and when other Member States are unable to provide the required assistance. The pilot project is run by France and the two planes are stationed in Corsica. The pilot project is a test for new arrangements in European civil protection.

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