NATO has deployed a record 40 firefighting aircraft to Greece to help the country combat wildfires, the alliance has announced.
Among the 40 aircraft supplied by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) are 29 firefighting helicopters and, for the first time ever, 11 firefighting aeroplanes.
This is the 11th consecutive year the NSPA has supplied firefighting aircraft to Greece.
The various aircraft are to be deployed to 20 different strategic locations across Greece in order to reduce the time between refill and successive drops.
“Aerial firefighting missions are among the most complex in aviation, as crews have to deal with the four Classic elements of Water, Earth, Fire and Air,” Lieutenant Colonel Panagiotis Filis, a career pilot with the Hellenic Air Force and now a member of Allied Air Command, said in a statement, describing himself as “grateful” for the NSPA’s assistance.
This comes on top of the assistance supplied by the EU’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) which this year, for the first time, pre-positioned 204 firefighters from other EU member states to Greece.
The ERCC’s reserve of 12 firefighting aircraft, which are also loaned from member states, are currently deployed in other European countries that battle wildfires including Albania, Portugal, Spain, France, the Czech Republic and Slovenia.
By 30 July, nearly 600,000 hectares had already been burnt across the EU by forest fires, data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) show.
This is the second-highest tally observed for any year since records began in 2006 after 2017 when close to a million hectares were turned to ashes.
Heatwaves that are occurring more frequently and becoming more severe across Europe due to climate change are fuelling the wildfires. Drought conditions, which are impacting about half of the EU’s territory, are also facilitating their spread.