EU mobilises firefighting fleet as Portugal declares state of alert


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Portugal activated the European Civil Protection Mechanism to request emergency assistance for the fires in the central part of the country the European Commission said in a statement. It noted that as an immediate response, the European Commission sent two Canadair fire-fighting aircraft from its fleet in Spain.

Portugal and Spain have been affected by high temperatures that have increased the risk of fire, which is expected to worsen in the coming days. Forest fires in Portugal have left 29 people injured as temperatures are predicted to reach up to 45C in parts of the country from Tuesday. On Saturday, the country recorded 125 fires, the highest number in a single day this year with around 1,500 firefighters fighting three big blazes. The government declared a state of alert across the country, from Monday to Friday 15 July as the weather has caused further concerns due to expected high temperatures.

Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič said: “With our quick response to the Portuguese request for assistance, the EU demonstrates its full solidarity in facing the destructive forest fires in central Portugal. I thank Spain for swiftly mobilising two firefighting planes via the RescEU this morning. Our thoughts are with those affected, and with the fire fighters and other first responders on the ground. We stand ready to provide further assistance.”

In addition, the EU’s Copernicus Emergency Mapping Service was activated by Portugal on 8 July for the forest fires affecting Leiria and Santarem districts in Ourém municipality. These maps support first responders with an assessment of the impact and damage of the fires. 

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism exists to strengthens cooperation between and among Member States and Participating States in the field of civil protection, with a view to improving prevention, preparedness and response to disasters. Through the Mechanism, the European Commission plays a key role in coordinating the response to disasters in Europe and beyond.

When the scale of an emergency overwhelms the response capabilities of a country, it can request assistance via the Mechanism. Once activated, the Emergency Response Coordination Centre coordinates assistance made available by its Participating States through spontaneous offers. Should the emergency require additional assistance, the rescEU reserve can be activated.

To date, all EU Member States participate in the Mechanism, as well as Iceland, Norway, Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Turkey. Since its inception in 2001, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism has responded to over 600 requests for assistance inside and outside the EU.

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