Program “Environment” provides 170 million BGN for preventing and combatting forest fires

16 Feb, 2024 | 13:05

"Forest fires are a growing threat to the environment, related to droughts and climate change, so the Ministry of Environment and Water (MOEW) and the Ministry of Interior (MOI) are improving prevention." This was said by the Minister of Environment and Water Julian Popov, who today together with the Minister of Interior Kalin Stoyanov attended the signing of the contract for the project "Increasing the technical support and capacity of the structural units of the General Directorate of Fire Safety and Civil Protection (GD FSCP) and preparing the population for responding to forest fires".

"The project aims to increase the technical capacity of the GD FSCP, as well as the preparedness of the population to respond to forest fires. The main objective is to reduce the risk of forest fires and the damages from them, ensuring the protection of people and natural resources," said Minister Kalin Stoyanov. He added that the GD FSCP is the unit at the Ministry of the Interior that works best in terms of absorption of EU funds and public procurement procedures.

The contract was signed by the Director General of the Directorate General of the Operational Programme "Environment" Galina Simeonova, the Chief Commissioner of the Directorate General of the National Fire Service Alexander Dzhartov, and the Rector of the Academy of the Ministry of Interior Senior Commissioner Assoc. Prof. Ivan Vidolov.

Minister Julian Popov highlighted that it is not just about the purchase of equipment, but about building strategic capacity. "Theoretical and practical training of 26 860 people from all over the country is planned for prevention and response to forest fires. The project has a preventive value - we will not wait for the big crisis, but prepare to prevent it because we expect an increased risk of forest fires. The equipment will not only be available to Bulgaria, but will also help neighboring countries. A serious center for the development of international capacity for disaster and emergency response will be established," said Minister Popov.

Galina Simeonova expressed hope that the project would lay a good foundation for the next 20 years so that there will be less damage from forest fires and added: "In recent years we have been looking at forests mostly as a material resource, but in reality they are the most important component of our environment and it is important that social attitudes change." Chief Commissioner Alexander Dzhartov noted that the procurement procedures have been announced and are at the evaluation stage and he expects this process to be completed by the end of April. "The project is key - we will replace virtually all obsolete vehicles, substitute with reliable modern vehicles, and be able to intervene quickly. We are building on the project we implemented with the Ministry of Environment and the Operational Programme "Environment" 2014-2020 that addressed the risk of flooding by training more than 90 thousand people. Now we are addressing the risk of fires and we will train people again to be prepared to respond," said Alexander Dzhartov.

Beneficiary of the project, funded under the Environment Programme 2021-2027, is the GD FSCP - Ministry of Interior, with an associate partner the Academy of the Ministry of Interior. The funding amounts to 169 964 169 BGN and the implementation period is 5 years. The implementation of the project will provide the necessary ground capacity for responding to forest fires for timely and adequate actions of the territorial units of the GD FSCP. This will enable rapid movement to fire sites and timely implementation of forest fire containment and eradication activities with minimal damage.  

The following activities are foreseen: the supply of 385 specialized vehicles for fire-fighting and operational activities - light, medium and heavy class; 67 mobile systems for extinguishing forest fires; 6000 personal protective equipment and additional modern equipment. The six centers of GD FSCP for the training of the population are also to be upgraded with equipment for practical exercises and drills related to the prevention of and response to forest fires in Vratsa, village Garvan in Gabrovo region, Shumen, Burgas, village Boshulya in Pazardzhik region, and Sofia.