European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

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Forest fires

© European Union/ECHO

Why is this important?

Every year, devastating forest fires take place in Europe and around the world, destroying thousands of hectares of forests. When the scale of a fire exceeds the capacity of a country to extinguish it, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism can be activated to provide a rapid and effective response.

What are we doing?

The European Commission's Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC), the operational heart of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, monitors forest fire risk and incidence across Europe around the clock using national monitoring services and tools such as EFFIS (the European Forest Fire Information System).

Every year before the beginning of the forest fire season, the ERCC organises meetings with all countries participating in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to exchange information on the state of preparedness for the upcoming season. Over the summer period, the ERCC and the countries that are at high risk of forest fires are in contact on a weekly basis. Spain, Croatia, Portugal, Greece, Italy and France are the most fire-prone countries in Europe.

When forest fires occur and when national capacities to respond are surpassed, European countries can show solidarity by sending assistance in the form of water-bombing aircraft, helicopters, fire-fighting equipment and personnel. To provide for a joint and coordinated response, they frequently channel the assistance and exchange real-time information through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. In addition, the Mechanism can co-finance the transport of assistance to the affected area.

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism has been activated more than 55 times since 2007 to respond to forest fires inside and outside Europe (including pre-alerts and monitoring requests).

In the summer of 2015, Greece has requested assistance via the Mechanism and France responded by making available its firefighting planes from the voluntary pool of EU civil protection assets. In 2014, the Mechanism was activated for Norway (pre-alert), Sweden and Greece.

In addition, since 2012 the satellite mapping service of the European Commission has produced satellite maps for 12 forest fires related emergencies.

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