(24 July 2018) After many weeks of hot weather firefighters are battling against fires that are bringing danger and destruction to Greece and Sweden.
In Greece this week at least 50 people have died and scores more injured as wildfires have raged through woodland and villages around the capital Athens.
In Sweden major forest fires are ongoing and the government has recently activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism* that supports cross-border efforts to respond to and contain disasters.
In the light of these events, EPSU’s Firefighters' Network** expresses solidarity with their brothers and sisters who are again on the front line to save lives, defend property and protect nature. The Network sends condolences to the families of those who have so tragically lost their lives.
The latest fires are an unhappy reminder of changing weather patterns and the need for the EU and Member States to better mitigate and adapt to climate change. According to the European Environment Agency (EEA) climate change projections suggest substantial warming and increases in droughts, heat waves and dry spells across most of the Mediterranean area and more generally in southern and western Europe. These projected changes would increase the length and severity of the fire season, the area at risk and the probability of large fires.
EPSU’s recently published Public services and adaption to climate change makes the case for strengthening adaptation strategies and addressing current shortcomings, including through more investment in public services and public service workers. Later this year the International Labour Organisation will adopt new Guidelines on Decent Work for Public Emergency Services that aim to better protect workerconfronted with emergency situations, including epidemics, extreme weather events, industrial accidents, conflicts and terrorist attacks. These Guidelines should also support governments and other actors in developing their disaster preparedness and responses.
* The EU Civil Protection Mechanism was established in 2001 to foster cooperation among civil protection authorities across Europe and currently it has 34 participating states.
** The EPSU Firefighters' Network brings together unions organising firefighters across Europe. Read the EPSU Firefighters' Network statements on concrete steps to fight climate change and against austerity.