Wildfires in Greece: 240 Foreign Firefighters to Be Deployed

Wildfires Greece
Firefighters battle a wildfire near Athens in 2022. Credit: Odysseas Karadis/Greek Reporter

As Greece is battling wildfires it was announced that two hundred and forty firefighters from Bulgaria, Malta, Moldova and Romania will be deployed this summer.

Alongside their Greek colleagues, the deployment is part of a program implemented for the third year via the European Civil Protection Mechanism.

The European firefighters, with staffed firefighting vehicles, will be deployed from early July to mid-September at three bases of operations, in Attica, Thessaloniki and Achaia.

The length of stay of firefighters in Greece will be longer this year – 2.5 months, from two in previous years.

The first foreign team from Bulgaria was already in the country and was stationed in the northern city of Thessaloniki, while a second team of 15 from Malta was due to arrive mid-month and will be stationed in southern Greece, the country’s Civil Protection Ministry said.

Greece has already started participating in the program this year with a group of 25 forest commanders deployed in southern France on June 15-30.

On Monday, scores of people were evacuated from hotels and homes on the eastern Aegean islands of Kos and Chios as ground forces and water-dropping aircraft battled two large forest fires.

Five people were reportedly slightly injured – four firefighters and one volunteer – while one man was arrested in Chios and fined more than 8,000 euros for allegedly causing the wildfire there.

In the 24 hours from Monday to Tuesday afternoon, 36 wildfires broke out across the country, the fire department said, with the vast majority tackled in their early stages.

Mitsotakis warns of danger from wildfires in Greece

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, speaking during a Cabinet meeting Monday, said this year’s summer was predicted to be “particularly dangerous” for wildfires.

He noted that the wildfires were largely caused by “an extremely difficult June in terms of weather conditions, with high drought and unusually high winds for this season,” while the summer ahead was predicted to be particularly dangerous.

“I think that these days we saw much better coordination, we saw very early intervention by the Fire Department, we saw for the first time the great importance of drones for the early detection of fires. I think we saw a better coordination of the police, local government and volunteers and the result of this effort was that, despite the difficult conditions, the damage and extent of burnt areas was limited compared to the magnitude of the threat,” he said.

“For example, I looked at the data from the two very difficult fires in Parnitha and Stamata. In each of these two fires, the burnt land appears to be less than 100 hectares,” he added.

Mitsotakis noted, however, that the battle against the fires would last a long time, as Greece was only now entering the heart of the firefighting season, and that “it will certainly not be won without the assistance of the citizens, especially in the field of prevention.”

He announced that the government was therefore extending the deadline for clearing plots of land from dry vegetation by another 15 days, as it has been shown in practice that “nothing is more useful than early preparation and citizen participation in the collective defense against natural hazards”.

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