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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

In its war against fire, Greece is not alone

Southern Europe is enduring one of the most severe heatwaves of the past decades. A country hit particularly hard by the increasing temperatures is Greece, where fires have broken out across the country.

Pictures of people desperately fleeing from the flames, air thick with smoke, mass evacuations, popular tourist islands like Rhodes and Corfu ravaged by fire – these might look like scenes from an apocalypse movie, but the emergency we are facing is very real.

Team of firefighters in front of a canadair
The EU is coordinating assistance to Greece, which is currently facing relentless wildfires in scorching heat.
© Sécurité Civile France, 2023

Due to rising temperatures associated with climate change, such chaotic wildfires have become an unwelcome fixture of European summers. While we cannot stop them from happening, we can be prepared.

In early July, the EU deployed pre-positioned firefighters and technical equipment from other Member States to Greece. As soon as the fires broke out later in the month, the stand-by firefighters from Bulgaria, Malta, and Romania started battling the flames side by side with their Greek colleagues.

A firefighter holding a waterhose on a road.
A Polish firefighter deployed to Greece via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism is extinguishing a fire.
© Lukasz Nowak, GFFFV Poland

However, the fires were too fierce, too stubborn, and too widespread to get under control with these resources alone. So, on 18 July, Greece activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to request further assistance from other countries. And Europe responded.

  • 7 water-bomber airplanes together with more than 50 aerial firefighters were deployed to Greece from the rescEU and EU Civil Protection Pool fleets positioned in Italy, France, Croatia, and Cyprus.
  • 360 firefighters and 108 vehicles were deployed from Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Serbia.

This is in addition to 80 firefighters from Bulgaria, Malta, and Romania who were already pre-positioned in the country via the Mechanism.

Firefighters giving water to a rabbit.
Romanian firefighters in Rhodes are offering some much-needed hydration to a rabbit rescued from the flames. As fires rip through their natural habitat, animals are often left helpless and unable to escape.
© Romanian Civil Protection, 2023

While Greece furiously battles the blazes brutally ravaging their country, the European civil protection family has stepped up in solidarity, showing that Greece is not alone in its war against fire.

Teams of firefighters holding different EU flags, standing in front of 2 water-bombing planes.
2 water-bomber planes were deployed to Greece from the rescEU firefighting fleet in Italy.
© Hellenic Fire Services, 2023

We owe the greatest gratitude to the brave firefighters, those on the very frontline of this fight. They are protecting our precious ecosystems, our rich biodiversity, and our homes. And most importantly, they are putting their own lives at risk to protect ours.

View of an emergency room in the ERCC, maps on a table in the front, 4 people standing looking at a wall with screens.
The EU has reinforced its Emergency Response Coordination Centre with a dedicated wildfire support team that uses science and civil protection expertise to better monitor, anticipate, and act when a fire breaks out in Europe.
© European Union, 2022


  • Photo of Hanna-Kaisa Lepik

    Story by Hanna-Kaisa Lepik, Information and Communication Officer, EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

    Publication date: 26/07/2023