KOSTANJEVICA NA KRASU, Slovenia — The wildfire was exploding across Slovenia’s dry mountainsides, burning up pine trees and blotting out both the sun and the ground. Lieutenant Colonel Aleš Ogrinc needed to call on all his military training as he steered his combat helicopter toward the flames to drop a payload of water.
In his 30-year career, he had deployed to Bosnia and Kosovo. This time the enemy was Slovenia’s largest-ever blaze, during the hottest European summer on record.
“You have different motivations,” Ogrinc said. “If you’re in Afghanistan or Iraq, that’s a common goal, but here you are fighting for your home, for your country.”
European militaries are fighting fires this summer that are burning with ever greater scope and intensity, battling record blazes across a continent that is also seized by war in Ukraine and the need to defend against an increasingly dangerous Kremlin. From the high cliffs of Portugal to the stony mountains of Greece, militaries have been the wildfire responders of last resort, bringing air resources and logistical capabilities that far outmuscle their civilian counterparts.
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