EU Hires Fewer Firefighters, Faces Extra Wildfires Than Ever

By qaxio

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An aircraft drops water as firefighters operate during a wildfire in Vati village, on the Aegean Sea island of Rhodes, southeastern Greece, on July 25, 2023.

An aircraft drops water as firefighters operate during a wildfire in Vati village, on the Aegean Sea island of Rhodes, southeastern Greece, on July 25, 2023.
Photo: Petros Giannakouris (AP)

Europe has been on fire this summer, but the number of firefighters available to address blazes around the continent has been on the decline.

There were a little under 360,000 firefighters in the European Union last year, a 2,800-person decline from the number of firefighters in 2021, according to a recent statement from the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), citing data from Eurostat. Especially vulnerable countries like France saw a 12% decline in firefighters available. The drop comes in the wake of southwestern France enduring an especially devastating wildfire that prompted the evacuation of more than 1,000 in September 2022. Portugal saw a more than 21% decline from 2021 and 2022.

Widespread cuts are going to become a “recipe for disaster,” Esther Lynch, ETUC’s general secretary said in a statement. Lynch argued that EU countries should be investing more in its emergency response, especially as climate change creates conditions for more wildfires.

“It’s clear from these figures that investment is already insufficient, and I’m concerned more cuts could be on their way if the EU reintroduces austerity rules next year,” Lynch said via the statement. “It would mean the majority of member states would have to make cuts at the very time the EU are asking them to increase investment in the fight against climate change.”

Europe has become drier and hotter over time as the climate crisis fuels changes in precipitation and raises average temperatures. Several countries have seen record highs, even regions that are supposed to be temperate. Alpe d’Huez, an Alpine ski resort that sits more than 6,000 above sea level saw a record high of about 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29.5 Celsius), according to Météo-France, a national meteorological service.

See firefighters work to extinguish fires throughout Europe this summer:

Want more climate and environment stories? Check out Earther’s guides to decarbonizing your home, divesting from fossil fuels, packing a disaster go bag, and overcoming climate dread. And don’t miss our coverage of the latest IPCC climate report, the future of carbon dioxide removal, and the invasive bugs you should squash on sight.



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