Technology joins fight against fires

Firefighters struggled yesterday to get control of the first major brushfire in Attica this summer as officials presented a new high-tech system designed by Greek scientists that could help authorities combat these incidents more effectively. Tens of firefighters attempted to put out a fire that broke out around 3 p.m. between the areas of Porto Rafti and Vravrona in eastern Attica. Strong winds helped fan the flames as four planes dropped water on the fire. The fire was brought under control around 8 p.m. but had burned some 200 hectares of mostly forested areas, according to initial estimates. Fire brigade sources said the blaze had been burning on five different fronts simultaneously and that led them to believe that it had been the work of arsonists. As it is illegal to build in forested areas, land-grabbers sometimes set fires to clear the zones of trees and people move in to build houses before new trees can be planted. Meanwhile, Costas Kosovitsas, the mayor of Nea Pendeli in northern Athens held a presentation yesterday to unveil a system devised by scientists at the National Technical University of Athens, the Athens Observatory and three private companies which can help detect forest fires early and give firefighters information about how to combat the blazes. The system, called «Firementor,» uses tiny sensors installed in trees that transmit information about changes in temperature back to an operations center. The technology can be used by firefighters to devise the best way of putting out a fire and has been designed to give authorities information about how best to evacuate the area. The system keeps operating, even if some sensors are destroyed in a blaze. The cost of developing the technology has reached 2.5 million euros so far. Each sensor costs around 1 euro and they must be place around 50 meters from each other. A pilot program using «Firementor» has already begun in Nea Pendeli over a 40-hectare area of forestland, Kosovitsas said.