In the summer of 2018, in the wake of the devastating fires that claimed dozens of lives in Greece, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) announced a grant of €25 million to aid the Hellenic Fire Department.
Our goal was to contribute to the difficult work of firefighters who risk their lives on the front lines for the safety of their fellow citizens, and the preservation of Greece’s natural resources, and to reinforce, at the same time, the Department’s infrastructure in order to help prevent disasters of such magnitude in the future.
The update aims to inform the public on all the developments that have occurred since the announcement of the grant, in July 2018.
Following the 2018 catastrophic fires, the leadership of the Fire Department and SNF representatives met in order to identify and prioritize needs. The first meeting took place in August 2018, with the participation of SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos.
In the aftermath of the first meeting, the Fire Department collaborated with regional administrations and the country’s central services in order to identify the Department’s priority needs and, by extension, the main axes of the grant. As more precisely defined in November 2018, these included the procurement of personal protective gear, vehicle equipment, and machinery, as well as the construction of an educational facility. Following further discussions and SNF input the grant included the implementation of public educational programs designed and developed by the Fire Department.
To date, there have been 24 meetings, including SNF visits to the Hellenic Fire Academy, the Firefighter School in Ptolemaida, the Fire Second Lieutenant School in Kifissia, and the Fire Station in Nea Makri, Attica.
Each of the grant’s main axes has been developing as follows:
Implementation of educational programs
One of the most important components of the grant is educational programs (€2.5 million), since public awareness and preparedness are crucial to the effective management of any future emergency incidents.
The proposal submitted by the Fire Department provides for the training of local government employees. This training focuses on implementing a framework for broader coordination and cooperation in responding to fires, providing basic knowledge on fire safety and forest protection, and implementing guidelines for the proactive and organized evacuation of residents from high-risk areas.
The Fire Department has invited 395 local governmental organizations to participate in the training program, of which 83 have responded. The Fire Department informed SNF that intends to cover a percentage of the cost of financing these educational activities, as part of the standard teaching work that Fire Department officers carry out. Given this, and despite the slow absorption of this component of the grant, both the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the Fire Department remain open to the prospect of supporting additional educational programs.
SNF and the Fire Department believe that the two main prerequisites for the long-term success of the training programs are their implementation at regular intervals (to which the Fire Department is committed), and the inclusion of broad public informational campaigns implemented by the participating local government organizations.
According to the Fire Department, building a specialized, fully equipped center for firefighter training is a priority. This has been a well-established and enduring need since the Department’s inception in 1930. Through SNF support, this need will finally be fulfilled on the premises of the former U.S. Navy base in Nea Makri, Attica, the use of which has been granted to the Fire Department since the 1990s. As part of the grant, a team of experts from the architectural firm Betaplan drew up a report precisely determining the scope and cost of the construction needed for a training center, based on the technical specifications prepared by the Fire Department. The results of the report are in the hands of the Fire Department, which is currently drawing up additional technical specifications for the center’s use and operation. The total cost of creating the training center is approximately €15.3 million.
Procurement of technical equipment
Initially, in defining its priorities, the Fire Department had requested SNF’s support in procuring and installing equipment including two (2) fire tanker trucks, four (4) off-road four-by-four vehicles to coordinate firefighting operations, fire pumps, fire extinguishers, and portable two-way radios for firefighters. Recognizing the importance of creating an integrated training center and the efforts required to complete it, the Fire Department decided to proceed with the procurement of only a portion of the equipment, namely firefighting hose nozzles, at a cost of €700,000.
Procurement of personal protective equipment
One of the Fire Department’s critical shortcomings is the lack of personal protective equipment for front-line firefighters. Following a detailed inventory and comprehensive proposal on essential fireproof equipment, such as fireproof jackets, firefighter boots, and helmets, the Fire Department finalized a list of required quantities and technical specifications. The Fire Department has proceeded with a call for tenders so that the gradual procurement and receipt of the greater part of the personal protective equipment happens in timely fashion and before this year’s wildfire season. The total cost for the procurement of personal protective equipment is approximately €6.5 million.
About SNF’s support for the Hellenic Fire Department
Since the beginning of its charitable activities in 1996, SNF has regularly supported the Hellenic Fire Department, through grants totaling €44 million, including the current €25 million donation. SNF’s support includes a Super Puma helicopter, which has been used for many years, including during last summer’s devastating fires; the purchase of 15 firefighting vehicles; equipment to assist volunteer firefighters on the islands of Cephalonia and Samos; and the construction of the training center for the 1st Special Disaster Response Units (EMAK). In addition, SNF has funded a long-standing Fire Department staff-training program on forest fires, in collaboration with the British Columbia Wildfire Service in Canada. Upon their return, the program participants trained their colleagues in Greece.