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IP/09/1111

Brussels, 9 July 2009

European Union helps fight forest fires in France

Following the spreading of major forest fires in Corsica, France made a request for fire fighting aircraft through the Commission's Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC), which is based in Brussels. For the first time, the MIC responded to such a request by making use of the European reserve of fire fighting aircraft that it has established this summer to assist Member States that face major forest fires. The planes were operational less than three hours after the request.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "The European reserve of forest fire fighting aircraft, which we established with the support of the EP, is a great example of European added value in responding to natural disasters like forest fires. We used this additional capacity for the first time yesterday, ensuring a quick response that otherwise would not have been possible. Solidarity among Member States remains at the heart of our cooperation in disasters, but we have to make sure we have the right tools at our disposal to react to any type of emergency situation.

Other EU countries were ready to offer assistance, but could only be on-site from today. Therefore, two fire-fighting planes that were leased within the framework of an EU pilot project and are stationed in Bastia, Corsica, were used for the first time. The planes were stationed within a 40km radius of the fire and could provide immediate assistance, helping to quell the fire before it could get out of control. The two planes were operational for four hours and carried out 36 water drops yesterday. The fire is now under control and the Fire Fighting Tactical Reserve will not be needed today. No further international assistance will be required

European Forest Fire Tactical Reserve

In 2008, the European Parliament earmarked € 3.5 million for a pilot project to step up cooperation between Member States on combating forest fires. As a result of the pilot project, two Canadair CL 215 fire-fighting aircraft – the European Forest Fire Tactical Reserve – are available this summer to assist Member States facing major forest fires, if and when other Member States are unable to provide the required assistance. They can be used for a total of 150 flight hours between 1 July and 30 September. The pilot project is run by France and the two planes are stationed in Corsica. The pilot project is a test for new arrangements in European civil protection.

The Community Mechanism for Civil Protection

The Community Mechanism 1 aims to facilitate reinforced cooperation in civil protection assistance interventions. It ensures the coordination of assistance intervention in order to provide prompt support and to assist a country (inside and outside the European Union) in need of help. The main objective is to provide the best possible response when a major emergency situation arises.

Mechanism activities are coordinated by the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC), which is run by the European Commission and located in DG Environment, Civil Protection Unit.

30 states 2 participate in the Community Mechanism. Through the Mechanism, participating states make available their civil protection resources to disaster-stricken countries all over the world in a coordinated way.

Since its creation, the Mechanism has been activated for a number of disasters both within and outside the EU, including the 2004 tsunami in South East Asia, Hurricane Katrina in the US in 2005 and the devastating forest fires in Greece and other European countries in 2007.

For more information:

Civil Protection Unit: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/civil/index.htm

1 :

Council Decision of 8 November 2007 (2007/779/EC, Euratom)

2 :

EU 27, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway


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