Demetrius Nellas, by the Associated Press
ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Greece is receiving European aid for the summer wildfire season, with the first team of firefighters arriving in Athens.
The 28 Romanian firefighters were welcomed on Saturday by Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides and the leadership of the Greek Fire Service. A total of more than 200 firefighters from six European countries will eventually be deployed to Greece.
“Romania is pleased to join a special firefighting pre-positioning program,” said Colonel Alexandru-Adrian Cilic, leader of the Romanian team. “We have previous experience here in Greece.”
The Romanians, along with other countries, including Russia and Turkey, helped Greece fight a massive fire in August 2021 that spread across the country and destroyed the northern part of Evia, Greece’s second largest island, as well as the southern Peloponnese Peninsula.
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This year, the EU has set up a “pre-positioning pilot project” designed to lead to a sustainable Europe-wide cooperation program.
“We are preparing for the #forest fire season in Europe. To date, +200 (firefighters) around Europe will be strategically stationed in Greece to join the national forces before they get out of control quickly (fire), “Janez Lenarsic, successor to Stylianides as European commissioner for crisis management, tweeted on Friday.
Romanian firefighters, who brought five fire engines, will work in the Attica region, including the capital Athens, until July 31.
Those who arrived on Friday will be relieved by an equal number of Romanian firefighters on July 15. Their place in August will be taken by the 25-strong French team.
A team of 16 Bulgarian firefighters, including four fire engines, also arrived in the central Greek city of Larissa on Friday and was welcomed by local authorities and fire service officers. The Bulgarians will be in the area throughout July.
July 15, 16 German firefighters begin work in Peloponnese; They will be replaced by 14 Norwegian and 24 Finnish firefighters in early August, who will be released in mid-August by an equal number of their compatriots.
Fires are frequent in Greece, aided by hot and dry weather and frequent high winds. Climate change means that the fire season is getting longer.
Greek authorities say high fuel costs have been linked to the challenges facing the fire service, which relies heavily on aircraft descending from the water to fight fires in mountainous countries.
Greece will start using fire-retardant chemicals in water droplets this year and will use fires strategically to fight larger fires.
Four of the six leaders of the foreign teams watched a live firefighting exercise west of Athens on Thursday. German and Norwegian team leaders watched the rehearsal online.
A study by an international consortium of research institutes shows that the increased wildfire season and the intensity of wildfires will negatively affect efforts to limit carbon dioxide emissions due to deforestation, which is generally an effective carbon absorber. The study even suggested that the intensity of the fires could gradually exceed current firefighting capabilities.
Lefteris Petracis contributed to this report.
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