More fire protection for 2004

Forested areas in Attica and other important areas such as Olympia and Delphi are to be the focus of a fire protection program in view of the 2004 Olympics, following a decision taken Monday at the fire department’s coordination center. At a meeting of senior fire department and other officials chaired by Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, it was decided that extra precautions were needed around areas where sporting or cultural events have been scheduled for the Games. The fire department’s legal service is also working on a bill setting out the obligations of homeowners in these areas, not only to avert the destruction of their own property but to prevent fires that might originate on their property and threaten surrounding land. The measures include opening up firebreaks, clearing undergrowth, removing inflammable material, constructing water tanks and generally making the homes themselves more resistant to fire. There has been general satisfaction with the results of firefighting operations this year, when only 22,000 hectares went up in flames, compared to 150,000 last year. This considerable improvement is being attributed to the successful implementation of moves such as setting up foot patrols to ensure that extinguished fires do not get rekindled, decentralizing firefighting forces, setting up coordination centers in each region, using expert personnel to analyze each fire in detail based on climatic and other conditions, and operating a department specifically established to fight arson and which appeared to deter many would-be arsonists. Patrols by firefighting aircraft carrying water supplies were also instrumental in stopping fires from getting out of control. One of the major factors in fire prevention that drew attention at the meeting was the responsibility of local government authorities to do something about the risk of fires at local landfill sites and the burning off of reedbeds and weeds, which accounted for an estimated 30 percent of this year’s fires. A round of meetings has begun to determine the best way to prepare for next summer, with discussions between all relevant groups on how to work together. The forestry service is to clear undergrowth and construct water reservoirs. Firefighters have already begun training, and foot patrols are to be stepped up by summer. The ‘average’ Greek arsonist A married man aged 45-59, with only a rudimentary education and usually self-employed in farming, livestock breeding, forestry or fishing, and living in a small community of less than 10,000 inhabitants is the profile of the average Greek arsonist, according to the fire brigade’s department against arson. The profile emerged from the first scientific survey of the phenomenon in Greece and which was aimed at finding out more about the reasons for forest fires, exploring the psychology of arsonists and determining the effectiveness of crime-fighting techniques. Three fundamental causes were pinpointed. First of all is the influence of the arsonists’ social environment and the political, cultural and financial conditions in which he lives. Then there are the individual psychopathological, personal motives and obsessions of the arsonist; and finally the natural factors relating to the targeted area, such as wind, temperature and the local geomorphology. Forest fires are either set deliberately or result from negligence. Deliberate arson is usually motivated by purely financial or other material factors such as to claim insurance, to build on the burnt area, or to extend grazing or cultivated land.

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