Preventing the fires

This is the first time during my many years living in Greece that I have actually written to a newspaper to express my rage over the yearly annihilation of homes and country caused by fire and I hope that you will take my comments seriously. I would like to suggest that before the government or local municipalities start to replant the trees and shrubs yet again, there are steps that should be taken to overcome the three basic probabilities of how these fires start – apart from sheer stupidity – which I feel are: 1. Constant depositing of garbage either in mass or out of car windows, including paper bags, plastic bottles and aluminium cans, all of which, amongst the waist-high dry grass into which they are thrown, are conducive to fires starting due to the intensification of the sun’s rays, in addition to the cigarette stubs randomly thrown down. 2. Greedy property developers paying individuals to set fires to force the sale of the land for development. 3. Political reasons, including intentional setting of fires to undermine the party in power – it doesn’t matter which one. Recommended solutions: 1. Before replanting greenery, clean up the countryside throughout Greece and eliminate chance fires; insist that landowners clear away their dead, dry grass or crops before the windy season, fine those who don’t comply; fine those who constantly throw garbage out of car windows or builders who practice «fly-tipping;» employ paid fire-watchers, there are enough unemployed to train for the job; launch advertising campaigns to educate those who are oblivious to the results of their carelessness. 2. Categorically stop the sale of such land, imprison the developers and the paid individual – rich or poor – stop the bribes, investigate and levy fines on those that solicit such payments and remove them from office. 3. To politicians: Love your country and respect your people not your own pocket or the chance of ill-gained power. Maybe it’s too much to ask of any politician, but you do know that you are also committing a criminal act by enabling activities that result in the physical and economic destruction of Greece. 4. Make the punishment fit the crime: Individuals, rich or poor, involved in such activities should be placed under armed guard, made to work in chain gangs to repair the damage to properties burned or destroyed, to replant all necessary greenery and install necessary emergency water facilities throughout the country to enable swift action by paid fire-watchers; work those guilty till they drop or till the country is replanted and stabilized. Purposeful instigation of those fires resulting in the death of any individual should be punished by the severest penalty possible. There are no words that can express the horror, fear, devastation or loss suffered by the people who risk their lives fighting this unnecessary crime against mankind and the environment, or those that lose their homes, crops or livestock. Greed is killing your country and the hopes of your children to enjoy the paradise that Greece was once claimed to be and the once thriving wildlife. Results/benefits of the suggested actions: The above actions would save the taxpayer money by making the criminals directly responsible for the crime – repair all damage and suitable fines would finance the materials needed. Education on the cause of random fires due to carelessness should reduce the number of fires. The country would be green again, hopefully wildlife would return, and damaged homes repaired, minds would heal, the environment would be restored. But talk is cheap, there is a need for serious action by genuine persons in power to take the first step before Greece becomes a totally arid desert – think it’s not possible? Check out the environmental mistakes over decades that have totally changed the flora and fauna, topography of other countries and our ongoing global problem of the environment before you sneer.  Is there a possibility that there is a party here that will take the matter seriously and end this living hell every summer? As for the party in power… clean up your act. Give your people instant action, reparation and hope for the future. BARBARA COUCH Athens