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Forests are unprotected from fires

14 July 2012 / 18:07:41  GRReporter
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An outdated fleet of fire-engines, lack of human recourses, limited aircraft. The firefighting department seems unprepared to manage the fires, that are occurring in different spots in the country. The economic crisis, the delay and political disinterest have created a potentially explosive mixture, which is expected to cause a lot of problems in the extinguishing of the fires during the forthcoming difficult summer.

The new Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection, Nikos Dendias, informed Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras about this problem. A few days ago, in Parliament, he painted the sad picture of the state of the Firefighting department.


Nikos Dendias

"As far as resources are concerned, we are not in a very good state for the forthcoming summer, and this is only putting it mildly", said Nikos Dendias. "In theory, we have 21 aeroplanes, 3 of which are out of order, i.e. we have 18, but they are not always available".

Indeed, of 21 firefighting aeroplanes, type Canadair, airworthy are just 18. Luckily, there are  18 more, type "Pezetel", which are spread among Kalamata, Andravida, Lamia, Kefalonia, Agrinio, Tripoli, Corfu and Mytilini, and which often "retrieve" the situation.


In addition, this year 10 helicopters are available for use, two less than last year, of which only 5 are in the country and take part in the fire extinguishing. In the meantime, the 5 helicopters, that are the property of the firefighting department itself (three ΒΚ-117 and two Super Puma), remain on land and cannot be used because, although the problem with their technical maintenance has been solved, the diplomas of the 11 trained pilots have to be renewed. Their renewal is delayed due to financial problems.

The problem with the firefighting aircraft is serious and multi-faceted. "Regarding the on-land resources for fighting forest fires, the biggest problem we are facing is the outdated fire-engine fleet. The average age of the fire-engines exceeds 25 years. Besides this, in the last 6 years, the Firefighting department hasn't bought even a single tyre, which has resulted in the fact that the fire-engines are not effective enough, and the safety of the firemen is questionable as well", said the chairman of the The Firefighting department's Union of Officers, Yiannis Stamoulis. In his words, a lot of the fire-engines are currently out of use, while at the same time at least 3,500 tyres are needed.

"The economic crisis has not bypassed the Firefighting department, as this year alone, the foreseen resources in the department's budget had decreased by 15%", explains Stamoulis.  "Bearing in mind that the reduction in 2011 was 30%, this means that for the past two years the Firefighting department's resources have decreased by 45%! At the same time, the conditions are becoming more and more difficult, due to the increased value of the old fire-engines maintenance", he emphasized.

No regular staff appointments from 2008

Another problem for the operative capacity of the Firefighting department is the significant lack of human resources, as well as the decreased funds to pay the firemen for overtime and night shifts.

According to the syndicalists, there remain 4,215 free positions for regular staff, as no appointments have been made since 2008.

The manpower of the Firefighting department amounts to 14,401 people.

Of them, 8,495 are regular staff. 4,000 firemen are employed as personnel of the Firefighting department with a 5-year work contract.

According to sources, 600 of them are undertrained. Also, 1,906 seasonal firefighters with temporary contracts have been appointed, albeit with a delay, 1,906 seasonal firefighters with temporary contracts.

Delay

The delay in taking decisions, which has always been a serious problem for the Firefighting department has increased this year, due to the events on the political scene.

The elections also slowed down the competitions, which were already underway, as well as the rest of the questions related to fire safety, for example prevention.

"The biggest problem for us is that the staff is scattered, as we have been afraid for a long time and have warned. Only the regular staff is at the disposal of the Firefighting department all the time. The firemen, who are on a 5-year contract work only if there are approved resources for their payment, and the regular ones are on a 5-day working week, without weekends and bank holidays, since there is no money. As a result, when a fire breaks out, the chief looks around to see who is available to go to extinguish the fire!", explains  Stamoulis.

Tags: Firefighting department problems economic crisis outdated fire-engines
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