Fire costs soar to 40 mln euros

The thousands of forest fires that broke out across Greece this summer have pushed up the cost of leasing planes and helicopters used for firefighting to 40 million euros from some 24 million euros in previous years, according to a Public Order Ministry source. This year the government hired a fleet of 16 helicopters – four Erickson, seven M-26 and five Camov – for a three-month period or a total of 120 flying hours, each at a cost of 27.9 million euros. However, due to the large number of forest fires this year, the Public Order Ministry has kept them in the air for a longer period, paying extra charges, the source said. For every additional hour an Erickson helicopter is used, the cost is 5,000 euros, while for every extra hour, the M-26 helicopters cost 7,000 euros. The significant increase in costs this year has come from Russian firefighting equipment sent to Greece last month to help the country in its dousing efforts. Greece will be charged 2.8 million euros for the Beriev Be-200 plane, while the two Russian M-8 helicopters will cost 1.2 million euros. A committee consisting of representatives from the Public Order Ministry and fire service has been set up to examine whether it would be cheaper to buy the helicopters through a leasing agreement that would allow for year-round access to the equipment. The committee is expected to present the results of its findings in about a month.