On May 15, 2019, the Middle East had to face a recrudescence of fires : more than a hundred in total, in a single day. Israel and the West Bank have been particularly affected. 3500 evacuees, entire villages destroyed by the flames, not to mention the environmental damage. Large- scale fires, driven by extreme heat : Temperatures exceed 40°C in some areas of the Near East. Unfortunately, these fires are certainly only the first in a long series. As every year, many countries will face fires and forest fires.
Many virulent fires
Although the final assessment has not yet been transmitted by the Israeli authorities, the fires in the Middle East have been very virulent. In addition to the destroyed homes and families evacuated, some roads have been closed to traffic and limited rail links due to the swelling of the rails by heat. Other countries in the Middle East, such as Egypt, have also been affected by fires. Since May 22, the country is experiencing an unprecedented heat wave, causing fires in downtown Cairo. And for good reason : temperatures reach 48°C in some places. In Egypt, the heat wave has already caused the death of 3 peopleand does a lot of material damage. In Tunisia too, heat spikes and fires are raging. But, in May 2019, the Middle East is not the only region concerned by the first major fires related to rising temperatures.
In Alberta, a province in Western Canada, a fire has already destroyed more than 70,000 hectares of forest ! Driven by strong winds, the uncontrolled fire is threatening the city of High Level. The municipality has also been totally evacuated or 4000 people, causing a wave of panic. At the time of writing, the “Chuckegg Creek” fire continues to grow, supported by high temperatures, wind gusts and lack of precipitation.
Some countries are preparing for the fires of the summer
Faced with the increase in the number of forest fires in the last ten years, some countries have decided to better equip themselves. Israel, for example, is committed to strengthening its fire-fighting capabilities in the country. In 2016, Israel had experienced one of the worst fires in its history. The Corsica regularly affected by forest fires, has obtained a water bomber, Canadair and additional military helicopter this summer. Portugal also plans a mobilization of large human and material resourcesin anticipation of summer fires. Finally, the European Union has just created RescEU, a first firefighting fleet. Operational this summer, it would help the Member States overwhelmed by the magnitude of the fires.
It was time for some countries to take action and decide to strengthen their means of struggle. Already in 2017, the OMPE had alerted 21 countries affected by drought and forest fires by launching the campaign “Stop, that’s enough !” who collected more than 75,000 signatures. If these steps are a step forward in the fight against fires, we think it will take much more than 2 or 3 more Canadairs. This is why we are calling for the establishment of the UFFFES (Ultra Fast Forest Fire Extinguishing System) and the Plan of Mutualization of the Forces of Fires.