Fire service lacked coordination

A failure to communicate between senior fire service officers, the lack of up-to-date technology to track wildfires and absence of some basic equipment for firefighters are some of the main reasons that some 17,000 hectares of land went up in flames northeast of Athens last month, according to a report into the blaze. The probe was carried out at the government’s request by Leandros Rakintzis, the general inspector for public administration. He has submitted his findings to the prosecutor who is investigating whether criminal charges should be brought against anyone involved. Sunday’s Kathimerini has seen a copy of the report, which outlines how there was a complete breakdown in communication between the head of the fire service Athanassios Kontocostas and his deputy Stelios Stefanidis, who was monitoring the blaze from up close. According to Rakintzis, the pair did not exchange a single phone call during the effort to put out one of the biggest wildfires ever seen in Attica. The report also suggested that the chief of the Attica fire service, Apostolos Gerokostas, failed to communicate with Stefanidis on the ground and in fact by passed him completely and instead spoke to Kontocostas to provide instructions on where water-bombing airplanes were needed. Rakintzis also underlined that there were some crucial delays in putting out the fire when it first broke out as the fire engines had trouble finding the location because they were not fitted with global positioning systems (GPS). The inspector also criticized the lack of satellite technology at the fire service’s command center. «The coordination of operations is not made easier by the center, which does not have an immediate view of the theater of operations and is limited to looking after demands for aerial and ground assistance.»