Elafonisos, Mount Hymettus, Evia: Within just a few days, three fires – with the latter being the most destructive – tested the adequacy, limits and endurance of the state apparatus, on issues ranging from firefighting to civil protection.
Although the conditions were different, it is inevitable that we are drawn to compare the response to these recent wildfires to that during last year’s deadly blaze in the resort town of Mati in eastern Attica, which could, and probably should, be codified in a manual on what should not be done in such cases.
Natural disasters are and will always be one of the challenges that every government is called upon to manage. Every administration will either take credit for its foresight and effectiveness, or be criticized for things that were not done on time or correctly.
There is, however, a sequence of priorities that should be clear and unambiguous: Tackling the fire should precede any assessment, and a thorough investigation into who was responsible for what should be carried out before any names are named.
Very soon there the reaction of those who tackled the fire on Evia will be evaluated.
As with any serious business organization, the state must examine how it has responded to a tough situation, whether the response was satisfactory, what went wrong, and what should be done differently if something similar were to happen again.
This is the way to make sure things work better and more effectively next time – because there will definitely be a next time.
A first observation on these recent fires is that there was a broad mobilization of the competent government and state officials and an absence of pompous statements.
Officials are well aware that the shadow cast by the tragedy in Mati remains long and the response to that fire will remain a point of comparison for years to come.
It is no coincidence that while the fire on Evia appeared to have been brought under control on several occasions, no one rushed to declare that the danger had passed.
It is also positive that although the weather conditions were adverse, state officials did not attempt to use them as an excuse.
The same applies to the investigation into the blaze, where information has not been leaked randomly, and neither has any state official hastily announced the causes of the fire before the inquiry is even completed.