Scant funds leave forests at risk

As the fire service reported yesterday evening that more than 140 fires had broken out across the country within the past 24 hours, it emerged that forestry authorities responsible for Pendeli and Hymettus mountains have inadequate funding to protect the forestland from fires. With temperatures again on the rise and winds picking up, the fire service said it was being summoned to tackle dozens of fires every day. Large blazes that had broken out earlier this week at the foot of Mount Hymettus and on the island of Evia had been extinguished yesterday. The fire service shifted its attention to a fire in Nikaia, near Piraeus, sending 10 fire engines and a helicopter to the scene. But the forestry authority in Pendeli, which is also responsible for Mount Hymettus, said it had received only 25,000 euros for fire prevention this year. Nikos Bosaris, the head of the national union representing forestry authority workers, said that additional funding and measures were crucial in these areas which have been eyed by land-grabbers over the past few years. «In the area of Hymettus where the fire broke out on Monday there is great pressure for property development… it is clear that the risk of fires breaking out in such areas is greater and so the need for measures is also greater,» Bosaris said. He called for the funding of patrols in such areas by municipal officials. «The presence of people inside the forests would discourage would-be arsonists,» he said. Additional state funding should also be made available for a cleanup of brush and illegal landfills on the fringes of the forests, he added. In a related development yesterday, the vice president of the national union of firefighters, Yiannis Stamoulis, complained that many firemen are putting their lives at risk on a daily basis as they do not have the necessary protective equipment such as helmets, masks and special goggles.