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Fighting Forest Fires In Europe – The European Union’s Civil Protection Mechanism

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Open Eyes Opinion {source: EC}

Fighting Forest Fires In Europe

Fighting forest fires in Europe – how it works

Every year there are devastating forest fires in Europe, destroying thousands of hectares of forests. Although the South European countries are at a higher risk, no European country is immune. When the fire gets too big for a country to extinguish it on its own, the European Union’s Civil Protection Mechanism can be activated to ensure a coordinated response.

Joint and coordinated response

When national capacities to respond to forest fires are surpassed, European countries often show solidarity by sending assistance in the form of water bombing aircraft, helicopters, fire-fighting equipment and personnel.

The Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) is the emergency response hub of the European Commission. The ERCC co-ordinates assistance on the European level in the case of disasters and in this way ensures that the help provided is efficient and effective.

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism can also be used to facilitate and co-finance the transport of assistance to the affected area.

Prepared for the forest fire season

The ERCC is actively monitoring the forest fire risk and incidence across Europe. It uses national monitoring services and tools such as the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), which provides an overview of the data that European countries collect through their national forest fire programmes.

Before the forest fires season, the ERCC organises meetings with all the Participating States in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism in order to have an exchange of information on the state of preparedness for the upcoming forest fires season.

Over the summer period, the ERCC organises weekly video conferences with the countries at high risk of forest fires: Croatia, France. Greece Italy Portugal and Spain

In addition, experts from the Participating States in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism are seconded to the ERCC every summer. Not only do they contribute to the ERCC’s overall work, but they also maintain regular contacts with national civil protection authorities, which is important in case of an activation of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

Tackling forest fires

The European Union Civil Protection Mechanism was activated 15 times (as either a pre-alert or due to a request for assistance) over the last three summers as a result of forest fires inside and outside Europe.

During the 2012 forest fire season there have been nine requests for assistance and one pre alert: Bulgaria, Montenegro, Albania, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece and Portugal requested aerial support and Spain opened a pre alert case. In 2013, the Mechanism was activated to respond to requests for assistance for forest fires in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Portugal, and for a pre-alert in Bulgaria. In 2014, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism was activated as a result of a request for assistance from Sweden and Greece and for a pre-alert in Norway. The ERCC also activated the EU Copernicus Emergency Management Service satellite mapping service in response to forest fires related emergencies.

About the EU Civil Protection Mechanism

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism facilitates the cooperation in disaster response among 33 European states (28 EU Member States, FYROM, Iceland, Montenegro, Norway and Serbia). These Participating States pool the resources that can be made available to disaster-stricken countries all over the world.

Since its launch in 2001, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism has monitored over 300 disasters and has received more than 200 requests for assistance. It intervened in some of the most devastating disasters the world has faced, including the floods in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (2014), the Ebola outbreak in West Africa (2014), the conflict in Ukraine (2014) and the earthquake in Nepal (2015).

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism legislation was revised in 2013 to include significant innovations. One such innovation is the creation of the European Emergency Response Capacity (EERC), which consists of a voluntary pool of Participating States’ pre-committed response capacities. The voluntary pool, which was launched in October 2014, increases the predictability and reliability of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism’s response to disasters and also facilitates better planning and coordination of response operations.

For further information:

The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection

The European Forest Fire Information System:


[photo credits: “Prescribed burn in a Pinus nigra stand in Portugal” by Pfern at en.wikipedia (Paulo Fernandes) – Transferred from en.wikipedia. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –]



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