Brussels, 1 September 2009
Civil Protection: Community Mechanism activated to tackle forest fires in Portugal
The European Commission has activated the Community Mechanism for Civil Protection to help Portugal tackle major forest fires. Two fire-fighting planes from Italy arrived this afternoon.
Portugal requested immediate assistance through the Community Civil Protection Mechanism yesterday (31 August) after forest fires started again in northern and central areas and weather forecasts indicated high temperatures and low humidity for most of the country on Tuesday .
Within less than one hour of the Mechanism being activated, Greece and Italy offered fire fighting planes. Portugal accepted the Italian offer. Two Canadair CL-415 planes left their bases early this morning and will arrive in Portugal early this afternoon. Spain is already assisting Portugal with two planes since yesterday (31 August) under a bilateral agreement between the two countries.
The two Canadair CL-215s of the EUFFTR - European Forest Fire Tactical Reserve – remain on standby and are available for deployment should the situation deteriorate further.
The operational heart of the Community Mechanism for Civil Protection is the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC), operated by DG Environment in the European Commission. It is available on a 24/7 basis. Any country – inside or outside the EU – affected by a major disaster can make a request for assistance through the MIC.
During emergencies the MIC plays three important roles: as a communications hub for the exchange of requests and offers of assistance; providing information on civil protection preparedness and response to participating states as well as a wider audience of interested stakeholders; and supporting co-ordination of the assistance provided by Europe.
In 2008 the European Parliament earmarked €3.5 million to set up the European Forest Fire Tactical Reserve as a pilot project. Consequently two Canadair CL-215 fire fighting aircraft are available this summer to assist Member States.