To prepare for the risk of forest fires during the upcoming summer, the European Commission is launching on May 21 the first fleet of firefighting aircraft under the new rescEU system to tackle natural disasters, the Commission said.
So far seven firefighting aircraft and six helicopters will be part of the rescEU fleet during an initial transition period, and the Commission is working together with the participating countries to add extra assets in the coming weeks, the statement said.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “rescEU is a concrete response, a European response, to help our many citizens who face the threat of natural disasters. We were all shocked, as Europeans, when many people lost their lives in the last years due to forest fires from Portugal to Greece.
“European solidarity must be about protecting citizens and helping each other in difficult times. rescEU offers practical solutions and puts European solidarity firmly into action,” Juncker said.
The statement said that already five EU member states, which have been frequently affected by forest fires in recent years, have put their airplanes and helicopters at the disposal of the 2019 rescEU transition fleet.
The initial assets are two aircraft from Croatia, one from France, two from Italy, two from Spain, and six helicopters from Sweden.
In addition to the creation of the rescEU fleet, the European Commission is reinforcing its monitoring and coordination capacities to prepare for the forest fire season.
The EU’s 24/7 Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) will be reinforced with a forest fire support team, with experts from the member states during the summer.
The ERCC will organise regular video conferences with member states throughout the summer to share information about fire risk across Europe.
The EU’s Copernicus Satellite system will be used to map forest fires emergencies.
Several field exercises on forest fires were held in the past months. This includes the MODEX field exercises for civil protection and on forest fires, with experts and rescue teams from various EU countries at Cres Island, Croatia, from April 7 to 10 2019. Further exercises were held in Split, Croatia and Aix-en-Provence, France.
The long term aim is to add further capacities and assets and build up a stronger rescEU reserve.
Europe has witnessed severe natural and man-made disasters in recent years: forest fires, floods, storms and earthquakes resulted in loss of lives – more than 100 in 2018.
“To better protect citizens in need, rescEU reinforces the Union’s collective ability to prevent, prepare and respond to disasters that affect our societies as of now,” the European Commission said.
(Photo: European Commission – Ezequiel Scagnetti)