50 forest fires struck Greece over the weekend. The largest fire burned over 800 hectares of shrubland outside Athens.
So far Greek firefighters have been able to contain the wildfires. But a large fire — like last summer’s mega fire that burned 17,000 hectares near the capital — could be devastating after budget cuts.
Take a look at the new Greek fire service, from Kathimerini:
The shortage of funds this year could be compensated for by improved prevention and firefighting tactics. As we enter summer, the government says that it is ready to protect forests and citizens. The Environment Ministry is also preparing legislation to declare all burned forestland off-limits to construction, thereby depriving arsonists of the incentive to destroy woodland and then exploit it for housing developments.
Unfortunately, though, Greece’s firefighters say that they are less ready operationally than they were last year this time; many senior officers and other experienced firefighters have left the service, fearing that new social security legislation will offer fewer benefits for pensioners; fewer firefighting aircraft are available; government austerity measures have reduced wages by between 150 and 300 euros. All of these factors mean that fewer and less-experienced firefighters will be doing more work than ever – for less pay. This would seriously demoralize the service.
Just another thing that could push the Greek’s to reject IMF-backed austerity.
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