Greece will welcome over 180 firefighters from five European countries in the period July-August when wildfires are the most dangerous.
The deployment is in the context of the firefighter’s pre-positioning program that will be implemented again via the European Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM).
The teams will come from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania and Slovakia. The European firefighters will be based in Athens, Thessaloniki, and Ancient Olympia so they are ready, as they were last year, to offer assistance to their Greek colleagues in putting out wildfires, as well as to exchange know-how.
According to a Climate Change and Civil Protection Ministry announcement, “the success of this pilot program (Pre-positioning Pilot Project), a practical proof of the value of European solidarity, was unanimously acknowledged at the EU Ministerial Meeting in September 2022 in Brussels – a fact the led to a decision for its continuation and expansion.
“So this year, apart from Greece, European firefighters will be pre-positioned in France and Portugal as well. The ministry added that from 2022, Greece constitutes a hub of the European Civil Protection Mechanism and of rescEU in the wider southeastern Mediterranean.”
In Greece, wildfires are a common occurrence, particularly during the hot, dry summer months. The country’s mountainous terrain, combined with dense vegetation and strong winds, creates the perfect conditions for wildfires to spread quickly and uncontrollably.
The impact of wildfires has been devastating. The loss of life and property is tragic, and the long-term environmental impact of the fires is also a concern. The destruction of large areas of forest and vegetation can have a significant impact on biodiversity and the local ecosystem.
In 2018, the Mati wildfire east of Athens claimed more than 100 lives. The fires were the second-deadliest wildfire event in the 21st century, after the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Australia that killed 173.
In the Summer of 2021 multiple wildfires in Greece burned dozens of homes in Attica, Olympia, Messenia, and Evia where they were the most destructive.
An initiative launched to combat wildfires in Greece and beyond
In late April Greek-American entrepreneurs joined forces to launch the $11 million XPRIZE worldwide initiative to combat wildfires.
XPRIZE Wildfire is a 4-year global competition that will provide funding to teams able to develop and demonstrate fully-autonomous capabilities to detect and extinguish wildfires.
The initiative was launched by Peter H. Diamandis, Executive Chairman of the Board of XPRIZE, a leader in designing and operating large-scale incentive competitions to solve humanity’s grand challenges and Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, president & CEO of ECOS, a leading green products manufacturer, and member of the board of directors of XPRIZE.
“We have been fighting wildfires the same way for decades – it’s not working, and the destruction is getting increasingly worse. We need a radical re-invention of how we detect and battle these blazes,” said Diamandis.
“We can no longer fight fires the way we did 100 years ago; we have to bring together the brightest minds so that we can eradicate the pain and suffering of people all over the globe caused by these fires,” Vlahakis-Hanks added.
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