The number of firefighters in the EU is declining, even as the bloc faces more wildfires as a result of climate change.
The bloc counted a total of 360,000 firefighters last year — 2,800 fewer than in 2021, according to new data released by EU statistics office Eurostat.
“Cutting the number of firefighters in the midst of a climate crisis is a recipe for disaster,” Esther Lynch, general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, said in a statement Tuesday.
“The increased fire risk caused by climate change has been clear for all to see this summer and we need to ensure our fire services have the staff and resources they need to do their life-saving work,” she added, calling on countries to boost investment in their firefighting fleets.
According to Eurostat, 10 countries cut firefighting jobs between 2021 and 2022, with the largest drops recorded in France, Romania, Portugal, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Belgium.
The number of firefighters in France dropped by 5,400, while Romania and Portugal slashed 4,250 and 2,907 firefighting jobs respectively.
Other countries, however, have boosted their fleets: Spain added 617 firefighters in the same period, while Italy added 546.
Brussels has made efforts to expand the EU’s role in disaster response and is building a permanent fleet of firefighting aircrafts that can be dispatched in vulnerable countries. But experts also point to the need for preventative measures such as active forest management to better prevent and contain wildfires.