The fate of third.
In one year, the world’s forests process a third of the carbon dioxide emissions produced from burning fossil fuels.
Forests cover about a third of the territory of Serbia, but numerous fires every year threaten to destroy a third of those trees forever.
The rise of average temperatures due to global warming has increased the likelihood of fires, posing a significant threat to forest areas. According to official data, in 2020 alone, 26 fires broke out in state forests in Serbia, destroying about 3,500 cubic meters of wood. Forests play an important role in stopping climate change. Therefore, the preservation of forest ecosystems is crucial for protecting the planet and maintaining the quality of life of future generations.
For all parts of Serbia to be adequately equipped to fight forest fires preserve human lives and property, support is needed – that is why in mid-2021, the EU donated 27 fire trucks for extinguishing forest fires to the Sector for Emergency Situations. The value of the vehicles exceeded one million euros, and they were delivered to various municipalities and cities in Serbia within the EU-funded, UNDP-implemented project “EU for Serbia Resilient to Disasters”.
Firefighting vehicles are part of the substantial EU support to Serbia in this area: ambulances, special vehicles for the Mountain Rescue Service and mobile dams for flood defence worth 14 million euros have been procured as part of this support.
Firefighters without borders
Two municipalities, one in Serbia (Žagubica) and the other in neighbouring Romania (Rekas), have joined forces to respond more quickly to potential disasters. Through the cross-border cooperation project “Firefighters and Emergency Management Rekas – Zagubica“, the municipalities have split a budget of 200,000 euros and procured modern emergency response equipment.
“Procuring vehicles for forest fires and trucks with dozer blades and saltworks is especially important. We also bought two portable pumps that were especially important during the floods of 2018 and 2020; additionally, we formed a voluntary fire brigade Mlava and equipped their premises,” says Milena Pajić, member of the project team of the Municipality of Žagubica. From June 2017 to May 2019, the EU invested 1.2 million euros in such assistance.
“Cross-border cooperation is going well in the south of our country, where within the SerbiaBulgaria Interreg IPA CBC programme, the Sector for Emergency Situations in Pirot received a specialised firefighting truck, 50 foldable fire pumps, as well as several pieces of office equipment. The project was implemented by the Sector for Emergency Situations of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia and the General Directorate for Fire Protection and Civil Protection of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Bulgaria. The cooperation proved very successful when a big fire broke out on Stara Planina in 2019. “Thanks to improved skills and efficient mutual communication, and joint actions of firefighters on both sides of the border, the fire was extinguished after several days of hard fighting,” states the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
|Firefighters across the border
Solidarity and support for those in crises are necessary. When large fires broke out in Greece in the summer of 2021, firefighters from Serbia came to the aid of Greek colleagues.
A group of 37 members of the Sector for Emergency Situations from Niš joined the firefighting efforts. In Greece, Serbian rescuers offered help using 14 specialised vehicles for fighting forest fires, some of which were donated by the EU.
Help is on the way; please wait
Firefighters are not the only rescuers that the EU supports in Serbia. Brave men and women of the Mountain Rescue Service (MSS) are even quicker to aid the injured mountaineers, tourists, and skiers using the vehicles they received via the project “EU for Serbia Resilient to Disasters”, implemented by UNDP.
MSS rescuers can do everything – they conduct searches for missing persons, perform rescue actions in floods and river rapids, in rocks and pits, and help injured skiers.
In addition to vehicles, the Mountain Rescue Service received new uniforms and equipment from the EU, which will enable rescuers to conduct their activities in hard-to-reach areas more efficiently. Two off-road vehicles, a 9-seater minibus, snowmobiles, telecommunications equipment, stretchers, climbing safety equipment, and rescue uniforms have been procured for MSS, in addition to specialised training for MSS members in line with European standards, through a donation worth 200,000 euros.
Snowmobiles, which skiers and boarders can see on the slopes of Kopaonik, draw special attention.
Marko Brzaković, one of the most experienced volunteers of the Mountain Rescue Service (MSS), said that in the busiest periods, they manage to transport about 10-15 injured people a day; during the high season, they have even more interventions.
“Saving lives is what matters,” says Marko, briefly summarising the results of his team’s work.
“The rescue operation does not only mean providing first aid but also transporting the injured to a medical institution. Since I am a sledder and, therefore, the most mobile person on the mountain, I arrive at the location first and transport the injured to the trauma centre as quickly as possible. Without this piece of equipment, it would be difficult to work in Kopaonik.”
“In the case of serious injuries, transport is a key part of the rescue operation – in those situations, acting quickly saves lives,” adds Jovan Raketic, an MSS volunteer and a skier.
In addition to rescue activities at ski resorts, MSS volunteers have carried out about 30 successful rescue operations since the beginning of 2021.