NEWS

Probe points to fire service errors in east Attica blaze

YIANNIS SOULIOTIS

TAGS: Fires

The final report wrapping up an investigation into the causes of the catastrophic wildfires in Attica on July 23 pointed to a series of errors, including the relocation of fire engines away from eastern Attica, where most of the 99 victims of the blazes lost their lives, Kathimerini understands.

The findings of the investigation, which was led by Athens prosecutor Ilias Zagoraios, appear to vindicate claims that fire engines were moved away from eastern Attica, where the fires wreaked their worst, to tackle another blaze in Kineta, western Attica.

Two fire engines which had been on patrol in the area of Daou near Mount Penteli could have helped put out a blaze there that ended up spreading across eastern Attica had they not been moved, the probe found.

One fire service officer testified that a total of 11 fire engines were moved from Nea Makri to western Attica before authorities had an overview of the situation in eastern Attica.

Despite initial reports suggesting the contrary, the fire engines that remained in eastern Attica were quick to respond. However, it appears fire service chiefs were not so swift to react when they were informed that the blaze which started in Daou was spreading eastward to Neos Voutzas.

The two fire service officers who were in the helicopter that was supposedly coordinating the response contacted Vassilis Matthaiopoulos, then deputy chief of the service and now its head, at 5.10 p.m. to warn him that the Daou blaze was spreading dangerously toward Neos Voutzas.

The pilot of a water-dropping helicopter that was already in eastern Attica sent the same message to fire chiefs. However, it appears that another water-dropping helicopter was dispatched to the scene 30 minutes later before being redirected to Kineta, western Attica, where the blaze was relatively under control.

Prosecutors also discovered mistakes and shortfalls in the reactions of officials of the General Secretariat for Civil Protection, the Hellenic Police, local and regional authorities and the coast guard, which was tasked with rescuing residents of the seaside resorts razed by the fires.

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