Capacities of fire departments from BiH and Montenegro strengthened with EU support

Within the “Joint Response” project, which is financed by the European Union, a training and intervention exercise were held in the area of the Nature Park Hutovo Blato in Čapljina,  for members of the firefighting units from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. Through the project and joint training, the capacities of 42 members of the fire services from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro were strengthened, with the aim of improving cross-border cooperation and interventions in protected areas. On this occasion, specialized firefighting equipment worth over 82,000 BAM was handed over to fire departments from Čapljina, Stolac and Ravno, and previously to the fire department from Jablanica.

Firefighters worked on three different, hard accessible locations in the field,  some of which required transportation by boat, all with purpose to highlight the importance of coordinating people and equipment in the field.

We know that natural disasters do not choose the time when they will occur, so it is necessary that there we have proper prevention and intervention in this protected area, but also that during recovery of the damage, all forces act in a coordinated manner”, pointed out Darko Šimović, assistant to the Mayor of Čapljina and a member of the city staff of Civil Protection.

Director of the Directorate for Civil Protection and Firefighting HN Canton, Mr. Eugen Ćubela pointed out that they were now working on upgrading and strengthening capacities with a focus on protocols, measures and competences in protected areas. He reminded that as part of this project, in April 2023, trainings were organized for new members of voluntary fire brigades.: „We are witnessing an increasing number of fires and various other disasters, often caused by the human factor, which every year create huge material damages, take human lives and destroy rare plant and animal species in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. Therefore, here, in the Hutovo blato Nature Park, we worked to strengthen the capacity of firefighting units for interventions in the field. Through the “Joint Response” cross-border cooperation project with Montenegro, we have established cooperation in the field of civil protection and rescue in general. In April 2023, we conducted training for new members of voluntary firefighting departments, where 10 units took part, of which 7 from BiH and 3 from Montenegro. We have now worked on upgrading and strengthening capacities with a focus on protocols, measures and competences in protected and inaccessible areas. On this occasion, firefighting units from Bosnia and Herzegovina were awarded significant equipment worth over 82,000 BAM, which will enable better and more efficient interventions in the field.“, emphasized Mr. Eugen Ćubela, director of the Directorate for Civil Protection and Firefighting of HN Canton.

Protected areas are important for biodiversity, preservation of the original landscape and aesthetic tourist potential. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro are countries of extremely rich biological diversity with internationally recognized areas that are under protection due to flora and fauna, endemic species and other specificities (national parks, nature parks, protected landscapes, etc.). Unfortunately, the entire region is extremely threatened by fires that every year affect protected areas and destroy biodiversity.

Training and strengthening the capacity of local fire brigades on this project will mean a lot for Hutovo blato, because recently we have a great lack of water in Hutovo, which is why large-scale fires are happening. Either from irresponsible individuals or situations during some agricultural work, dry reeds catch fire more and more often, so the goal is for local fire brigades to strengthen their capacities for faster intervention. It is equally important to work on educating the local population in order to prevent such disasters in the future.”, said Josip Vekić, Head of the Hutovo Blato Nature Park Protection Service.

Tomislav Majić, president of the LiNK Association, also emphasized the importance of educating children and young people in order to develop responsible behavior in society: “In addition to equipment and strengthening cross-border cooperation, the project works to raise awareness and promote responsible behavior. Namely, the human factor is the most common cause of fires, and as a result we have huge damages in human lives, property and natural resources. That’s why we work on education and promotion of responsible behavior among young people, especially school-aged children. Yesterday, in the area of the Nature Park, we had an educational lesson in nature for the students of the Vladimir Pavlović Elementary School from Čapljina, and earlier we already held similar activities with young people from Jablanica, Mostar, Konjic, Nikšić and other towns in the region,” emphasized Mr. Tomislav Majić, president of the LiNK Association.

The total value of the “Joint Response” project is over 590,000 euros, out of which the European Union provided around 490.000 euros in grants. Implementation started on 01.07.2022. and will last for 2 years, and it is carried out by the Directorate for Civil Protection and Firefighting of HN canton in cooperation with partners: the Entrepreneurship and Business Association LiNK Mostar and the Foundation for the Development of the North of Montenegro (FORS MNE).