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EU wants to station additional firefighters

With a view to longer dry periods in summer and the resulting increasing risk of forest fires, the European Union wants to take precautions: hundreds of additional firefighters should support local emergency services in the event of an emergency.

The EU wants to station more than 500 firefighters from twelve countries at key locations in Europe this summer. In France, Greece, Portugal and Spain, for example, they should support local fire departments, as the EU Commission announced.

“This proactive measure strengthens Europe's preparedness to fight forest fires and mitigate their devastating impact on lives, homes and the environment,” it said. The EU had already announced the stationing of firefighters in various member states for the forest fire season last year – albeit on a somewhat smaller scale.

600 million euros for new firefighting aircraft

In order to be better equipped to fight forest fires, the EU is also relying on a fleet of firefighting aircraft. This consists of 28 aircraft – including two from Germany – and four helicopters, which are stationed in ten member states. With a further 600 million euros, twelve new firefighting aircraft should be able to be purchased more easily. Several helicopters would also be financed by the EU in the future “to strengthen the EU fleet for fighting fires from the air.”

The fleet is part of “rescEU”, the EU's civil protection mechanism. According to the Commission, in 2023 “rescEU” was used 35 times alone to help not only with forest fires, but also in the course of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine or because of earthquakes in Turkey.

Last year, over half a million hectares were destroyed by forest fires in the EU. In terms of the area burned, 2023 is one of the worst years for forest fires in the EU, according to a report by the EU Commission's Joint Research Center.

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