Dendias: free volunteers are way forward to fighting forest fires

Public order minister says more has been achieved with less money spent

While the country's firefighters complain that their ranks are gravely understaffed, Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias says the 'new doctrine' when it comes to fighting forest fires will rest on the concept of 'volunteering'

Firefighting must rely more on voluntary efforts, Public Order Ministry Nikos Dendias says (File photo) Firefighting must rely more on voluntary efforts, Public Order Ministry Nikos Dendias says (File photo) The "new doctrine" when it comes to protecting the country’s forests against fire will rest on the concept of "volunteering", the public order minister announced on Tuesday, as he presented the statistics from this summer's fire season.

Nikos Dendias said that the area of land burned this year was half that on the previous year. According to a fire service report, there were 4,248 fires from from June to August, which destroyed 23,393 hectares.

That represents a 56.8% reduction on the same period in 2012, which the report said was all the more remarkable given that for 72 of the 92 days of the season, the weather was conclusive to fires due to strong winds and a lack of ground moisture.

This was a result in a "100% improvement in the fire service's effectiveness", which he added was all the more impressive given that the force is operating on "less and less money".

"Volunteering is the doctrine of fighting forest fires in the future," Dendias announced, noting also that 190 people were arrested on suspicion of involvement in fires, an increase of 108% on 2012.

His comments are certain to anger firefighters, whose salaries have been slashed under troika-mandated austerity.

In June, their union said their ranks were short of 4,200 staff and that no full-time firefighters had been hired since 2008.

It also claimed that only 415 of the fire service's 1,700 firefighting vehicles are less than 10 years old and that 13 of the 21 water-dropping planes at the fire service’s disposal are more than 20 years old.


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