Fire service in cross hairs over deadly 2018 Attica blazes

Fire service in cross hairs over deadly 2018 Attica blazes

The testimony of dozens of fire and other officers and witnesses on the ground during the deadly 2018 east Attica wildfires point to a string of oversights that appear to lie mainly with the Hellenic Fire Service.

The thick case file compiled by judicial investigator Athanasios Marneris over the past two years during which he has been examining the state machine’s response to the blazes that struck the areas of Neos Voutzas and Mati in the summer of 2018, leaving 102 people dead, includes several very telling narratives.

“The police had adequate forces to assist in a safe evacuation plan. However, the head of the fire service never issued such an order,” Konstantinos Voutelas, a retired firefighter serving in the Northeast Attica Directorate at the time, told Marneris of the failure to evacuate the seaside town of Mati.

“The distance between Marathonos Avenue and the sea is 500-600 meters, which means that the average resident could have been in a safe place near the water within 15 minutes. We had the time and the personnel to carry out an evacuation… We were ready to go, but the order never came from the fire department,” said an officer with the Traffic Police, which would have been responsible for directing motorists to a safe exit route.

These testimonies, like the rest of the case file, are now in the hands of a prosecutor, who is to rule on a petition by Marneris to elevate the charges against certain fire service officials to felonies.

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