Fighting forest fires in Europe – how it works

Fighting forest fires in Europe – how it works

26 August 2011

published by

European Union — Every year there are devastating forest fires in Europe, destroying thousands of hectares of forests.

The South European countries are at higher risk, but no European country is immune. When the fire gets too big for a country to extinguish it on its own, the European Union’s Civil Protection Mechanism can be activated to help by coordinating the response from fellow member states.

Between 2008 and 2011, six European countries have received assistance via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism which supported them in fighting forest fires.

When national capacity to respond to forest fires is surpassed, other EU countries often show solidarity by sending assistance in the form of water bombing aircraft, helicopters, fire-fighting equipment and personnel.

The Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) is the emergency response hub of the European Commission. It co-ordinates support among Member States in case of forest fires and other disasters. By pooling their resources the MIC ensures a united response which can be much more effective and efficient than individual actions. The duplication of efforts is avoided and the needs of the affected country are met in full.

The Civil Protection Mechanism can also facilitate and co-finance the transport of assistance to the affected area.

The Monitoring and Information Centre is actively monitoring the forest fire risk and incidence across Europe. It uses national monitoring services and tools such as EFFIS (European Forest Fire Information System), which was developed by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. EFFIS provides information for the protection of forests against fire in Europe, addressing both pre-fire and post-fire conditions. It also centralises data that Member States collect through their national forest fire programmes.

Over the summer the MIC also holds a weekly video-conference with national authorities from the six countries at the greatest risk of forest fires which could exceed national capacity.

A Forest Fires Bulletin is published every week containing the latest information about potential or ongoing forest fires in Europe. Experts from Member States who are seconded to the MIC every summer contribute to its work and maintain regular contacts with national civil protection authorities.

Over the last two summers the Civil Protection Mechanism (CPM) was activated 20 times to respond to forest fires inside and outside Europe. Portugal, Greece, Italy and France are the most vulnerable.

The Mechanism can also be activated for forest fires outside the EU. Montenegro and Albania sent requests for assistance in 2008 and 2009 and Israel received emergency forest fire assistance in 2010.

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