Greece offered on Friday “holiday vouchers” to hundreds of firefighters from foreign countries that responded to the call for assistance.
The move is a gesture of gratitude to the hundreds of foreign firefighters from 11 EU countries and 12 non-EU countries that rushed to help their Greek counterparts to contain the catastrophic fires that burned more than 100,000 acres in the country throughout the month of August.
According to the decision, the holiday vouchers allows them to receive touristic services in Greece.
Foreign firefighters vow to continue offering help in Greece
While the majority of the foreign firefighters have left Greece, a team of 143 firefighters from Poland are still fighting the blaze in Villia, north-western Attica.
🇵🇱🇬🇷At the request of the Greek authorities and in the name of European solidarity it has been decided to extend the mission of the Polish firefighters @KGPSP in Greece. Polish firefighters will not leave anyone in need. Good luck Greece! pic.twitter.com/yTTZqZBdMr
— Poland MOI 🇵🇱 (@PolandMOI) August 16, 2021
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis thanked the Polish government for assisting Greece. “The Polish firefighters are doing an amazing job on the ground and we are glad to have them by our side,” he wrote on Twitter.
I spoke to Prime Minister @MorawieckiM and thanked him for Poland's continued assistance in fighting the wildfires, as their teams will remain in Greece for another two weeks. The Polish firefighters are doing an amazing job on the ground and we are glad to have them by our side.
— Prime Minister GR (@PrimeministerGR) August 19, 2021
Minister of Citizen Protection Michalis Chrysochoidis said on Thursday that Romania had offered to send firefighters with vehicles once more, after the more than 100 who had been operating in Greece earlier this month returned home.
Greece had accepted the offer “with gratitude,” the minister said. He did not specify how many Romanian firefighters would be involved or when they would be arriving.
— Embassy of Romania to the Hellenic Republic (@RomaniaInGreece) August 20, 2021
Foreign assistance to Greece surpasses expectations
By mid-August approximately 1,300 foreign firefighters and more than 250 trucks were deployed across Greece.
Of these, nine aircraft, 236 fire trucks, and 1,014 firefighters and rescuers were deployed under the umbrella of the European Union in Greece. Brussels covered at least 75 percent of the operational costs of this titanic operation.
Colonel Alexander Horobezic told Greek Reporter that a total of 100 firefighters have arrived in Greece from Ukraine.
”We feel good being here helping a friendly nation like Greece,” the Ukrainian firefighter stated warmly.
”We have great communication and relationship with our Greek colleagues; the only problem is that we speak different languages,” the Ukrainian member of the team noted.
A similar picture was portrayed by Peter Kovalik from Slovakia.
”We have brought here a total of 77 firefighters and 30 trucks,” the team leader of the Slovak firefighters told Greek Reporter.
”We arrived and met with our Greek colleagues, with whom we have great cooperation and coordination,” Kovalik noted.
The EU member states that responded to Greece’s request to the European Civil Protection Mcchanism were Cyprus, France, Croatia, Sweden, Romania, Spain, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Austria.
A score of countries outside of the EU also sent help to Greece, showing how serious the situation is at the present.
The US, the UK, Switzerland, Israel, Ukraine, Egypt, Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE, Moldova, and Serbia also sent manpower, vehicles, planes, and equipment to Greece.
Greece has been roiled by hundreds of wildfires this month, on the heels of its most severe heat wave in decades, which left its forests tinder dry. Other Mediterranean countries – Turkey, Italy, Algeria and Spain among them – have suffered similar problems.
Scientists say there is little doubt that climate change from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is driving more extreme weather events.