Greece will boost its firefighting capability with the purchase and lease of additional water-dropping aircraft, the Greek prime minister said Wednesday during a parliamentary debate on the massive wildfires that tore across the country this summer.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis did not give more details. Earlier this month, government officials said Greece has 74 firefighting aircraft – 42 planes and 32 helicopters – at its disposal.
Mitsotakis also announced plans to create a special unit made up of forestry experts and firefighters “that will be able to operate more effectively in the forests.”
The conservative leader added that responsibility for firefighting and prevention was passed on from the forest service to the fire department under the socialist PASOK government in 1998.
“It took many years for the fire service to adapt,” he said.
Critics say the decision has undermined fire prevention in the country.
While he acknowledged that mistakes were made, Mitsotakis largely defended the government’s performance in battling the August wildfires, which he linked to severe heat, drought and other climate-related changes.
“The prolonged heat wave turned all our forests into tinderboxes,” he said.
In total, more than 116,000 hectares have been burnt in the country since the end of July.