EU Mobilizes Additional Resources to Combat Greek Wildfires
The EU Commission’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre has mobilised 11 firefighting planes and one helicopter from the rescEU reserve, stationed in six Member States in response to the biggest wildfires ever recorded in the European Union.
The fires, which have been ravaging Greece’s Alexandroupolis region in the northeast of the country have been burning for 11 days and have claimed 20 lives. In addition to air support, six European countries have contributed with six ground forest fire fighting teams via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
Over 81,000 hectares, an area bigger than New York City, have been burnt in the Alexandroupolis region in the largest fire recorded in the EU since 2000, when the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) began recording data.
Arson is suspected as the cause of some of the wildfires. Greek Authorities have a range of prevention measures in place to avoid wildfires including the banning of outdoor fires and barbeques in open spaces, in the dry season, usually from May to October.
According to PBS news, to the end of last week, Greek fire department officials had arrested 163 people on fire-related charges since the start of the fire prevention season, including 118 for negligence and 24 for deliberate arson.
Greece has experienced a high level of wildfires this summer including on a number of the Greek islands which the Government is attributing to climate change.
Since Greece activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, for the second time this summer, on 20 August, the EU has deployed:
- 11 rescEU firefighting airplanes stationed in Croatia, Cyprus, France Germany, Spain and Sweden
- One Blackhawk helicopter from Czechia
- 407 fire fighters and 62 vehicles from Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, France, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia.
This assistance follows the EU’s prompt reaction to Greece’s earlier activation of the Alexandroupolis. Last month, a coordinated deployment involving nine planes, 510 firefighters, and 117 vehicles was launched to tackle the escalating wildfires.
Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management, said, ‘We stand in solidarity with Greece as it battles the devastating wildfires. The European Union’s largest aerial firefighting operation underscores our commitment to swift and effective collective action in times of crisis. Our thoughts are with the people of Greece, and we will continue working tirelessly to protect lives, property, and the environment. The EU’s unity and cooperation are our strongest assets in overcoming these challenges.’