ATHENS — Even as the pandemic and its effects occupy our collective attention, other pressing needs remain on a number of different fronts. One of these fronts, as fire season starts, is protecting the people and the natural environment of Greece by ensuring that the Fire Department has what they need to fulfill their mission.
In 2018, following devastating and deadly fires in Mati, Greece, the SNF announced a €25 million grant to the Hellenic Fire Department. The grant comprises three elements: provision of personal protective equipment to firefighters, construction of an educational center, and implementation of fire protection training programs for firefighters and members of the general public.
SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos commented on the continued importance of the grant: “It’s been almost two years since the devastating fires of 2018, but we have not forgotten. We haven’t forgotten the dozens of victims, or the people affected, or the members of the Fire Department who fought—and continue to fight, every summer—difficult and often uneven battles. We are here to contribute to the efforts of the Greek state and the Fire Department in order to help support and safeguard, to the best of our ability, people who are putting their lives at risk to protect us. We can’t possibly turn back time, but we can all make sure that we never relive the tragic moments of that July, ever again.”
A significant component of the grant, providing personal protective equipment to Fire Department personnel, is nearly complete. The Fire Department now has a total of 17,000 uniforms, 17,500 combat boots, 3,000 firefighting boots, 4,000 masks, 5,000 hoods, 2,000 fire helmets, and other protective equipment, ensuring the best possible protection for the people on the front lines.
At the same time, studies for the construction of a fully equipped educational center for the Fire Department are underway at the former U.S. Naval base in Nea Makri, Attica. Firefighters from all over Greece will train at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Educational Center of the Hellenic Fire Department. The final studies and the issuance of the building permit are expected by the end of July 2020. In the current timetable, construction is set to begin in October 2020 and to be completed in October 2021.
The third element of the grant seeks to harness the power of international collaboration to implement best practices through training programs for firefighters and the general public. Fire Department trainers will travel to selected firefighting training centers abroad and respected instructors from training centers abroad will be invited to Greece to address the country’s specific needs, such as fire and flood protection and rescue operations.
A few words about SNF’s support for the Hellenic Fire Department
Since beginning its philanthropic activities in 1996, SNF has regularly supported the Hellenic Fire Department through grants totaling €44,300,000, inclusive of the current €25,000,000 grant. SNF’s support has helped provide the Fire Department a Super Puma helicopter, which has been used for many years, including in fighting the devastating fires of 2018 and 2019; 15 firefighting vehicles; equipment to assist volunteer firefighters on the islands of Cephalonia and Samos; and a new 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, with participants training their colleagues in Greece upon returning from the British Columbia Wildfire Service in Canada.