Effort to coordinate state bodies ahead of fire season

Senior Cabinet ministers – with one notable exception – agreed yesterday to coordinate a series of government and civil service departments to help take preventive action in view of the hundreds of wildfires that ravage the country’s forests every summer. «Our aim is, long before the firefighting season starts – and this is the first time such early action is being taken – to have taken all necessary measures to ensure that no problems arise or, at least, that we can avoid what is avoidable through preventive action,» Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said. Pavlopoulos urged the Inner Cabinet to clarify the precise responsibilities of each department in taking precautions against forest fires – mainly involving clearing brush from areas bordering on forestland – adding that municipalities and local councils will be given extra funding, estimated at around 18 million euros, to help with their efforts. One of government planners’ main headaches is the estimated 1,000 illegal municipal rubbish dumps in operation around the country, which pose a major fire hazard. The only serious forest fire to have broken out so far this year, destroying over 1,000 hectares of pines on the island of Evia, started in an illegal landfill and was fanned by strong winds. Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis, who is responsible for the fire brigade, had not been invited to the meeting, which raised eyebrows among government officials and commentators.

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