Map forecasts risk of fires across Greece

Many parts of the country face a high or very high risk of being ravaged by forest fires, according to a special map forecasting the danger of fires in different parts of Greece which the Civil Protection Agency has been issuing daily. Samos, Icaria, the Dodecanese islands and Crete’s Lasithi prefecture all face a very high risk of being struck by forest fires over the next few days due to strong winds and high temperatures in those areas. Next in line are Attica, the Cretan port of Iraklion, the Ionian islands, the western Peloponnese, Evia, Thessaloniki and Halkidiki. In view of these forecasts, the fire service has issued an urgent announcement appealing to citizens to be particularly careful over the next few days. The emphasis of the campaign this year is on preventative measures – clearing the undergrowth in forests on the outskirts of cities – rather than the containment of fires which we are well prepared for, according to the relevant ministerial committee addressing the issue. Indeed, the clearing of these forests – and of unmonitored garbage dumps – has constituted the Achilles’ heel of our national fire prevention system this year; it causes serious delays and is often the actual cause of forest fires. Figures issued by the Civil Protection Agency regarding unmonitored garbage dumps are also revealing. More than 500 dumps across the country operate within an expanse of forestland, in the absence of any fire prevention measures. Another 800 dumps are operating unmonitored across the country. These dumps were responsible for 32,400 hectares of forestland going up in flames between 1986 and 1997. Monitoring Greece’s 1,334 garbage dumps continues to be the agency’s central aim during the firefighting season as a meticulous inspection over the last few months has proven how dangerous they can be in provoking fires. A total of 1,033 municipalities and communities operate 1,334 dumps and only 32 organized waste-recycling sites. Central and eastern Macedonia are believed to face an exceptionally high risk of forest fires, as the largest number of dumps – 227 – are located in central Macedonia, while in eastern Macedonia there are more garbage dumps (127) than municipalities (55). Therefore, the focus of decision making is on the timely preparation of municipalities, prefectures and regional authorities – although all the preventative measures were supposed to have been implemented by May 31. However, fires that have broken out since that date, due to unmonitored garbage dumps, have been successfully extinguished. In any case, firefighting services have been boosted this year with 6,500 seasonal staff and 26 million euros. Municipalities have received 19 million euros to be put toward fighting forest fires, while 7 million euros has been allocated for the improvement of the construction of roads with forests. As regards Attica, regional planning foresees that a total of 84 fire engines will be patrolling forestland across the entire prefecture during normal weather conditions over the summer. On days when the risk of forest fires breaking out is particularly high, the standard fleet will be boosted with an extra 16 fire engines and 11 fire service motorcycles, which will be on 24-hour patrol. At the highest risk level, the entire staff of the national fire service will be put on alert and all patrols will be boosted.

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