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Confusion fed forest blaze July 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News.

PPC and fire service did not communicate when Parnitha fire began

Comments by the Public Power Corporation (PPC) and the fire service yesterday indicated that there had been a major breakdown in communication between the two that might have contributed to the fire that devastated the Mount Parnitha forest spreading as far as it did.

Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras said that aircraft had not been used to drop water when the fire first broke out in Dervenohoria, near Parnitha, because there were electricity pylons running through the area and it was feared that they could be knocked out, causing a blackout in Athens.

However, PPC’s general manager for transmission, Dimitris Bousdekis, said yesterday that the power cables in question were put out of operation for safety reasons when the fire broke out. «The firefighters must have known,» said Bousdekis.

The chief of the fire service, Andreas Kois, said that he had not known the power cables were inactive. «We were never informed of the matter and as such were not in any position to know whether the pylons were carrying power or not,» Kois said.

Some 500 firefighters and soldiers continued for a sixth day yesterday to extinguish the embers of the fire, which is estimated to have burned up to 4,000 hectares of forest in the National Park on Parnitha.

Experts are investigating what caused the fire to start, with the possibility that it was arson becoming more likely. Kois also said that the fire began simultaneously in three different spots in Dervenohoria and that the remnants of incendiary devices had been found at two of them.

Supreme Court prosecutor Giorgos Sanidas has launched a preliminary investigation into the causes and handling of the blaze. Environmental experts have warned that the Parnitha fire is likely to have a number of effects on the climate in Attica, including a rise in temperature and air pollution.

Ineptitude proves costly > Every Greek is justifiably outraged at the ongoing, gradual death of the Mount Parnitha National Park. The widespread destruction caused by devastating fires over the past week is in many areas irreparable. It is tragic that, yet again, after the event comes the realization that the worst could have been averted if the authorities had acted more efficiently. The fact that the Public Power Corporation did not even inform the fire service that it had cut power to the pylons on the mountain, thus making it possible to drop water from firefighting aircraft without risking a blackout, is indeed extraordinary. Moreover, firefighters on the scene failed to notify their superiors or the Public Order Ministry accordingly. Sadly, the question as to when the country will be destroyed because of the complete lack of communication between services that are supposed to be protecting it, is becoming a rhetorical one.

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