(AFP) – Apr 16, 2008
PARIS (AFP) — About 600 European firefighters will on Thursday begin their first-ever joint exercise in Sardinia following a European Union decision to build an emergency team to fight continental forest fires.
The team, drawing firefighters from France, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Greece, will be put through a three-day course.
The move comes after a slew of forest fires devastated vast swathes of southern Europe last year, especially Greece and Italy.
"The main objective is to set out common operational procedures" of the various fire services and "test the chain of command," a spokesman for the French civil defence said.
It is part of the EU-FIRE initiative launched to combat devastating blazes on the continent.
Between 300,000 and 800,000 hectares (750,000 and two million acres) of forest and grassland are destroyed every year by fire in southern Europe. Eighty percent of these are man-made.
Seventy-three people perished last year in Greek forest fires.
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