Why is this important?
Every year, devastating forest fires take place in Europe and around the world, destroying thousands of hectares of forests and affecting population. 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).
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 countries at high risk of forest fires are in contact on a weekly basis. Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Croatia are the most fire-prone countries in Europe.
When forest fires occur and when national capacities to respond are surpassed, European countries can send assistance in the form of water-bombing aircrafts and helicopters, fire-fighting equipment and personnel. To provide a joint and coordinated response, they channel the assistance and exchange real-time information through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Additionally, the Mechanism can co-finance the transport of assistance to the affected area.
For the 2016 forest fire season, the European Commission co-financed the stand-by availability of a heavy firefighting airplane, the Buffer-IT, which was deployed in Cyprus, France and Portugal for a total of 20 days, performing more than 75 operational flight hours and 212 water drops.
The EU Civil Protection Mechanism has been activated more than 69 times since 2007 to respond to forest fires inside and outside Europe, including for advisory missions.
In 2016, the Mechanism was activated nine times to respond to forest fires, including in both France and Portugal in August, where the Buffer-IT firefighting plane was deployed, as well as in Israel in December, where firefighting planes from Cyprus, Greece, Croatia, Italy and France were deployed.
In January 2017, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism was activated following a request for assistance from the Government of Chile. The EU supported the national response to the worst forest fires in the history of the country. Three ground forest firefighting modules from Portugal, Spain and France, the latter under the voluntary pool, were deployed in Chile, along with a EUCP team of nine experts.
Following the successful implementation of the 'Buffer-IT' project of 2016, the Commission is co-financing two additional aerial forest fire fighting capacities (buffer capacities) for the 2017 forest fire season. The objective is to address potential shortcomings in responding to disasters. These buffer capacities are registered in the voluntary pool and available for EU Civil Protection Mechanism deployments between 15 June and 15 September 2017. The first buffer capacity from Italy is composed of two heavy amphibious planes and the second one from Spain consists of two medium amphibious planes.
In addition, since 2012 the satellite mapping service of the European Commission has been activated 25 times, producing satellite maps for forest fire related emergencies.