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EU gets ready for high temperatures, doubles capacities to fight fires
The European Union has doubled the number of equipment available to fight forest fires, EU crisis management commissioner Janez Lenarcic said. A total of 28 devices will be able to be used for crises in the member states of the European bloc, as well as in neighboring countries.
Ten Canadair aircraft, 14 light aircraft and four helicopters will be ready for what is expected to be a "very busy summer", Lenarcic said in an interview with European Newsroom.
"This year has already started drier than usual," he said, noting previously reported dryness in Portugal, Spain, southern France and northern Italy. Meanwhile, recently, there have been floods in some of these places as the water collected from the rainfall was not easily absorbed by the very dry soil.
This unusual early drought, along with the rising temperatures now being recorded in Europe, are, "obviously, a major driver of forest fires," Lenarcic said.
After 2022 brought Europe's hottest summer on record, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen in September announced plans to double the firefighting air fleet.
The fleet is strategically spread across the EU so that it can respond quickly when fires break out in the critical period from June to October.
The aircraft are stationed in ten member states: Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. This EU mechanism was created in 2001. In the first two decades, it was activated an average of 20 times a year.
In the past two years, that has increased to about 100 times a year, Lenarcic said, adding that more funding is likely to be needed in the coming years.
"There should be more funding due to climate change because we are witnessing an increased intensity of natural disasters in particular," warned Lenarcic. /REL