The European Commission has helped mobilise substantial support for Portugal, through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, following a request for assistance to battle forest fires in the country. Spain has offered over 163 firefighters, 27 vehicles and 4 firefighting aircraft – two air tractor aircraft from the EU buffer capacity (FIREGUS) and two Canadair aircraft - which are currently operating in the affected areas.
"Helping Portugal at this time of need is a top priority for the EU. I thank Spain for making support quickly available through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. This is European solidarity in action. Our EU Emergency Centre in Brussels, which monitors natural disasters 24/7, is in constant contact with the Portuguese civil protection authorities on all developments. Let me commend the hardworking first responders of Portugal and all those across Europe. They are facing a very tough summer and their dedication is an example for all to follow," said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides.
This is the second time Portugal has activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism this summer, following the deadly fires in June. The European Commission offers to co-finance 85% of transport-related costs to countries offering support through the Mechanism during this critical time in the Mediterranean basin when countries' capacities to respond are highly stretched.
Since 9 August, Portugal has again been facing a complex period in terms of forest fires due to high temperatures, low humidity, and winds. Forest fires continue to burn in central districts of Portugal. Major fires are in the districts of Santarém in Vila de Rei municipality and in Castel Branco in southern Fundão municipality.
The Commission's 24/7 Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) is currently closely monitoring forest fire risk across Europe and has already supported Portugal, France, Italy, Montenegro as well as Albania this summer.
The ERCC is actively monitoring the fires throughout Europe. It uses national monitoring services and tools such as the European Forest Fire Information System and satellite imagery to provide an overview of the situation in Europe. Over the summer period, the centre also organises weekly coordination meetings with countries at high risk of forest fires. Fire experts from the EU Civil Protection Mechanism's 34 Participating States (28 EU Member States, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland, Norway, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey) are seconded to the ERCC during the fire season on a weekly rotating basis, with two present at any one time.
The European Commission coordinates the voluntary offers made by participating states though the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, and can co-finance the transport of relief items and experts to the country in question.