Brussels, 3 September 2012
EU Civil Protection Mechanism supports Portugal to fight forest fires
The European Commission is supporting the efforts to tackle the serious forest fires in Portugal. The authorities in Lisbon requested assistance and Spain made an offer for two Canadair fire-fighting aeroplanes through the European Union's Civil Protection Mechanism. The Commission has also agreed to the immediate deployment of two EU-funded fire-fighting aircraft from France.
Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, stressed the importance of European solidarity in such situations. "When local resources are stretched because of the scale of the fires, it is reassuring to know that others are standing by to help. Through practical and effective European cooperation, we can limit damage and human suffering when forest fires erupt".
Portugal faces the risk of forest fires every summer but the current situation is particularly severe following a long dry spell with little rainfall. Moderate to strong winds are fanning the flames. Dry weather is forecast for at least four more days, and across most the country, the forest fire risk ranges from very high to extreme.
The European Commission's Monitoring and Information Centre is closely following this situation and is in regular contact with the authorities in Lisbon. The Centre is also keeping the other countries which participate in the European Civil Protection Mechanism informed of developments.
The Commission's civil protection experts constantly monitor the fire risk and the evolution of forest fires in Europe. They are in regular contact with their national counterparts to provide a fast and coordinated reaction in the event of new emergencies. A Slovenian helicopter offered though the Civil Protection Mechanism is currently helping to fight serious forest fires in Albania, while Italy has also offered one Canadair fire-fighting aircraft.
Due to the extensive period of drought and high temperatures this summer season, several South European countries have been struggling with forest fires. Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, Montenegro, Serbia, Croatia and Bulgaria have been affected so far.
The forest fire situation in Europe is constantly monitored by the Monitoring and Information Centre and based on the fire-danger forecast provided by the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS). In the summer of 2011 and 2010, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism was activated 20 times to respond to forest fires both in and outside of Europe.
The European Civil Protection Mechanism facilitates cooperation in disaster response among 32 European states (EU-27 plus Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). The participating countries pool the resources that can be made available to disaster-stricken countries all over the world. When activated, the Mechanism coordinates the provision of assistance inside and outside the European Union. The European Commission manages the Mechanism through the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC).
About EU-funded firefighting aircraft (ACR5 project)
The project ACR5 is co-financed by the European Commission, aiming at supplementing Member States' resources when a country is being overwhelmed by an emergency situation.
Five EU Member States participate in the project: France as a coordinating beneficiary together with Spain, Belgium, Greece, and Portugal.
The project allows for the mobilisation of a wide range of civil protection modules including aerial means for fighting forest fires. The Commission can request the mobilisation of these civil protection assets (e.g. fire-fighting aeroplanes) following a request of assistance from a Member State or a third country. Modules under this project have already been successfully deployed in 2011 to respond to forest fires in Greece. Positive results of this project have been taken into account in the Commission legislative proposal establishing a reinforced European Civil Protection Mechanism.
For more information
Commissioner Georgieva's website:
The European Commission's humanitarian aid and civil protection:
Irina Novakova (+32 2 295 75 17)
David Sharrock (+32 2 296 89 09)