EU conducts largest firefighting operation ever in Greece

A view of flames as a forest burns, in the village of Dikela, near Alexandroupolis, in the northeastern Evros region, Greece, Aug. 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Achilleas Chiras)
By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

The European Union’s Civil Protection Mechanism (rescEU) is assisting Greece with 11 firefighting aircraft and one helicopter in its largest-ever aerial firefighting operation to extinguish forest fires in several areas of the country, the European Commission announced on Tuesday.

According to Brussels’ statements, the mobilization of the EU’s rescEU reserves is necessary because the forest fire in Greece this year is the biggest since the EU launched the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) in 2000.

The statement noted that Greece has already activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism twice this summer. In response to the call, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Germany offered aircraft to fight forest and bush fires, while the Czech Republic offered a Blackhawk helicopter. In addition, a number of member states are providing firefighters specialized in fighting forest fires.

Currently, 407 firefighters and 62 firefighting vehicles are fighting fires in Greece, with personnel and equipment sent by Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia. In addition, at least 20 maps of the affected areas have been produced by the EU’s Copernicus satellite mapping program.

A helicopter drops water over a wildfire atop Mount Parnitha, in northwestern Athens, Greece, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. A major wildfire burning on the northwestern fringes of the Greek capital has torched homes and is now threatening the heart of the National Park of Parnitha, one of the last green areas near the Greek capital. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Over the past two months, the EU and its member states have contributed nine aircraft, 117 other vehicles and 510 firefighters to help extinguish the escalating forest fires in Greece, the EU Commission said in a statement.

In recent weeks, dozens of forest fires have ravaged Greece due to strong winds and heat, with weather conditions making it difficult to extinguish the blazes. As of Sunday, 105 forest fires were being extinguished across the country, 46 of which started over the weekend. Authorities are investigating the cause of the fires, with arson suspected in some cases.

As Remix News recently reported, 13 Pakistani and Syrian migrants were arrested for arson in the vicinity of Alexandroupolis, in the northeast of the country, near the border with Turkey.

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