(13 July 2023) Heat waves and flooding are hitting Europe once more this summer and firefighters and emergency services are and will have to face the climate crisis in a context of chronical staff shortages and poor working conditions. A freedom of information request from the BBC showed that last summer, while the fires destroyed homes in London, 39 fire engines were unavailable due to cuts to crews. Staff shortages means also longer shifts, with increased health and safety risks like higher exposure to toxic substances, fatigue and increased chances of accidents.
The European Parliament is taking this problem seriously and, after organising a public hearing last March, organising a debate in its July plenary where MEP D’Amato (Greens, Italy) underlined the urgency to provide protection and better working conditions to firefighters, the EMPL committee will discuss and vote next week an oral question to the European Commission asking how the EU Commission plans to take forward the WHO-IARC classification of professional exposure as a firefighter as carcinogenic, but also ensuring proper decontamination and addressing the issue of working time. The debate with the EU Commission will be held in EP plenary session in October.