Τhe alibi of inactivity

Τhe alibi of inactivity

The investigation conducted by the officers of the Hellenic Fire Department was thorough. They first had to identify where the fire started. They considered the metrics of the fire’s movement, wind, vegetation, the carbon footprint, and witness statements by residents, before reaching a creek over which passed Public Power Corporation (PPC) electricity lines on wooden poles with metal conductors. They then had to establish a cause.

There was no sign of stubble burning in the nearby fields, nor refuse that could justify the initial combustion. They found no evidence of malicious arson. They even looked for the carcasses of burnt birds that, as they noted in their report, “could start a fire by coming into contact with the power lines.” There were no beehives in the area (some fires start by accident when beekeepers are smoking their hives). They did however find fallen and damaged metal conductors and noted that they showed signs of short-circuiting. They were warped in many places as the metal had reached melting point. Some witnesses said they had seen sparks.

As long as we blame malicious ‘arsonists’ for everything, then both the state and its citizens will refuse to tackle the problem head on

All the evidence led to the conclusion that the fire that heavily damaged businesses, houses, vehicles, warehouses and animals in the Vamvakopoulo area near Hania, Crete in 2013 started from the PPC power cables. After a very long time in courts, the case was finally closed in May 2021, just 10 days before the limitation period.

Every summer, when news of a fire spreads, speculation about “organized arson” resurfaces in the country’s public discourse, even though in most cases this is not accompanied by adequate evidence. The larger the scale of the fire, the more intense this speculation can become. Even if this speculation is not shared by any officials, it has been spread so many times over the last decades by several governments that it has been accepted by a large part of public opinion.

However, as long as we blame malicious “arsonists” for everything, then both the state and its citizens will refuse to tackle the problem head on. The recent fire in Ano Glyfada started outside a Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network Operator (DEDDIE) substation. The investigation conducted by the Hellenic Fire Department will establish exactly what caused it. However, over the last few days everyone has been taking part in a blame game. We are not talking about a vast forest that had not been cleared from dry vegetation in many years, but a substation near the urban landscape. How difficult or costly would it have been to clear the area around the substation of weeds and dry vegetation? Until when will the bureaucracy and the overlapping of responsibilities between the Forest Service, the local government and DEDDIE serve as an alibi for inactivity?

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