New firefighting measures drawn up

The government yesterday introduced 24-hour fire service patrols and the recruitment of another 1,300 firefighters as blazes continued to ravage forestland across the country. The measures were decided upon by the Inner Cabinet, which convened yesterday following the death of two firefighting pilots on Evia. The two men, aged 34 and 27, received state funerals in Thessaloniki yesterday. Late on Monday, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis visited the fire service unit in Elefsina. «You have won the admiration and respect of us all for the heroism and self-sacrifice you have shown,» Karamanlis told firefighters. The government said it would request more water-dropping aircraft and helicopters from fellow European Union states to tackle «a difficult summer.» Authorities have also pledged extra pay for firefighters working overtime. A proposal by opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou for a meeting between party leaders on fires, under the chairmanship of President Karolos Papoulias, was rejected by the government. The worst of yesterday’s fires were in Thesprotia where strong winds fanned a blaze that started on Monday. In Kastoria, firefighters struggled to contain three blazes which detonated several old mortar shells. Dozens of smaller fires were reported in Aigion and other parts. The fire in Styra on Evia, where the firefighters crashed, was contained yesterday after destroying 600 hectares of farmland and several homes. Meanwhile, two more people were arrested on arson charges, bringing the toll of arson suspects to 21.

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