An increase in the means for fighting forest fires, the permanent installation of European firefighters in Greece during the summer months, the creation of forest commando units, more forest patrols and the systematic implementation of aerial surveillance measures are included in the new operation plan for the fire service that was presented on Tuesday at a press conference held by Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides.
Regarding the leasing of aircraft, Stylianides confirmed that through the NATO Support and Procurement Organization (NSPO), the fire service has leased a total of 46 aircraft, compared to 31 last year. These include nine Sikorsky heavy-lift cargo helicopters, 12 Kamov medium-utility helicopters, eight Agusta Bell helicopters and 17 Air Tractors. The leased aerial means are added to the 40 privately owned aircraft (Canadair, PZL etc).
The cost of the leases amounts to 80 million euros, 30% more than last year. This year, for the first time, Greece will also operate as a hub of the European civil protection mechanism (RescEU), which means that another heavy-duty helicopter will be permanently stationed in Greece, with the rental and operating costs being fully covered by EU funds.
The European Commission also agreed to pilot and finance a pre-installation plan for 250 European forest firefighters in Greece. A total of six countries have agreed to participate, including France and Romania. The 250 forest firefighters will operate in Greece in the months of July and August and will be stationed in Athens, Larissa and Tripoli.
Meanwhile, Culture Minister Lina Mendoni referred to the goal for no fires to reach archaeological sites – not even their fencing. Mendoni said that 80% of the 21,000 archaeological sites and monuments around the country have already been cleared of dry grass and flammable material.