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Civil Protection chief: Operations against the fires “by the book”

In a rare press conference in presence of journalists who were allowed to ask questions about the ongoing fires in Greece, Head of Civil Protection and Deputy Minister for Crisis Management, Nikos Hardalias, justified the operational management of the forest fires burning across the country since August 3.

The aim of the presser was to respond to sharp criticism by opposition parties and the residents of affected areas that not adequate ground forces and aerial fire fighting means were deployed to avert the burning down of thousands of hectares  of forest and agricultural land, houses and farming animals and wildlife and had thousands of people evacuate their villages.

He particularly focused on the logistics of firefighting by air, a source of criticism in the media from Evia residents and said that everyting was done by the book.

586 fires broke out between August 1 and 8, he noted adding “every day we had to deal with a three-digit number of fires, including fresh ones that reached 99 in one day alone.

Regarding the deployment of aerial means to drop water especially in mountain areas and dense forest, that where not accessible to ground forces he said:

74 airborne means of assistance were at the civil protection’s disposal as also some government minister said two days ago and was proud that Greece has the most aircraft per X population.

“They were reduced to 73 after the crash of 1 Pezetel (PZL) on Zakynthos [on Aug 8]” Hardalias said and added:

  • Of these 73: 7 are aerial coordination centers that trasnfer firefighting personnel.
  • Of the 66: 6-7 are usually on maintenance
  • Of the 60: 20 are stand by at bases across the country
  • Of the 40: only 20 are in the air at the same time and the other 20 are refueling

In short words: just 20 aircraft in total were operational/flying in the big fire fronts in North-West Attica, Evia, Ilia and Ancient Olympia last week.

Regarding the persisting fires at the island of Evia, he said that trying to put out the fires by air has become impossible since Sunday, due to the thick clouds of smoke. When feasible, water-dowsing helicopters fly in through any available air corridor.

This explains why only firefighters on the ground have been operating at Evia over the last 3 days, he added.

Note that the fire on Evia started on Aug 3.

He gave several explanations to justify the non-deployment of aerial means -“due to heavy smoke in fire areas” or “the wind conditions” i.e. Beaufort intensity or ‘wrong direction’ -, the “extreme heatwave” and how perfect the evacuation of people at risk was.

He reiterated again that no life was lost and that priority was in the following order:

  • 1 Human lives
  • 2 Properties
  • 3-10 Forests, trees, agricultural land, farming animals, you name it.

He had apparently forgotten the 38-year-old  volunteer fire fighter who was killed in NW Athens froma falling electricity poll and the 70-year-old man who was killed in Fokida, Central Greece, when he was trying to open an anti-fire zone with a tractor in a burned down area.

All in all and to summarize Hardalias’ one-hour presser in a few words:

We did everything perfect. Hadn’t we have prepared so good and hadn’t we be so direct and effective in our operations, you have no idea where the fires would reach.

Regarding his resignation as the chairwoman of KINAL/PASOK Fofi Gennimata demanded earlier today, Hardalias said that his “resignation is on top in the drawer of the Prime Minister.”

PS Now everybody wonders if everything was operationally perfect against the fire why the PM “apologized” yesterday…

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  1. well, ‘we did it by the book’ is always the cheapest and basest for of ass-covering, short of ‘we were just following orders’. and whenever you see this kind of CYA , be it in some petty office politics, or be it in government, you know someone has screwed up and is running for cover. fire them, drag them before a court, and lock them up for a long long time!

    • Usually no comment

      By the book is what the budget and requirements allow. Like any government across the world, The Greek government cannot cover for every eventuality. Other governments have a larger budget for the firefighting spend and protection of their citizens. That’s because the general public do not evade taxes. As the saying goes…..”you get what you pay for”. To summarize , if 100% of the Greek population contributed fully into the Tax system, the government would be in a better position to support in times of need. In this case, the government are doing an outstanding job, an its about time the population appreciated the Prime Minister, his government and the relentless efforts of the firefighting teams from Greece and the rest of the world…. Thank You to them. From somebody that never comments!

      • This thing about not paying taxes is old and it’s not true.In Greece. we have a high tax burden and a low return from our money.

        • And let’s not forget that sales tax in most cases is 24%! After I pay taxes from my income, I continue to pay taxes on nearly all of my purchases, plus property & car taxes. And these are the basics!