Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection

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Forest fires

Photo credit: EU/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 coordinate the response from participating states.

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 for an exchange of information on the state of preparedness for the upcoming forest fires season. Over the summer period, the ERCC also organises weekly coordination video conferences with the countries that are at high risk of forest fires and whose national capacities could get overwhelmed. 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, EU 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 EU Civil Protection Mechanism can co-finance the transport of assistance to the affected area.

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

During the 2012 forest fire season, nine requests for assistance were received. Bulgaria, Montenegro, Albania, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece and, Portugal activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism requesting aerial support.

Also in 2013, the Mechanism was activated to respond to requests for assistance for forest fires in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Portugal, and for a pre-alert in Bulgaria. In 2014, the EU Civil Protection mechanism was activated for Norway (pre-alert), Sweden and Greece.

In addition, the satellite mapping service has been activated 12 times in response to forest fires related emergencies since 2012.

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