ATHENS – In the presence of the President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the new 3.83-hectare Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Hellenic Fire Corps Training Center was inaugurated at the site of the former US military base in Nea Makri, Attica, on March 30.
The event showcased the new Training Center premises, which include 20 buildings featuring administrative areas, living quarters, classrooms, and practice rooms, as well as outdoor training structures. These new outdoor facilities consist of a training course for urban search and rescue, a burn building for live fire training with live fire training props, a climbing wall that resembles a building facade, and more.
The grant for the creation of the Training Center is part of SNF’s longstanding support for the Hellenic Fire Corps, dating back to 1996 and continuing through today, amounting to €41 million in grants for construction projects, equipment, and educational programs.
Over the past 27 years, SNF has supported the Hellenic Fire Corps with grants for the procurement of 15 fire trucks and a Super Puma helicopter, which have been used repeatedly during the devastating wildfires that have ravaged the country in recent years. Simultaneously, the Super Puma helicopter is utilized for air ambulance services, transporting rescuers and medical evacuees from remote areas of the country. SNF has sought to provide the members of the Hellenic Fire Corps with personal protective equipment to ensure they have the best possible protection in emergency situations. Additionally, SNF has supported the construction of a training center for the 1st Special Disaster Response Units (EMAK).
Recent forest fires in areas of Greece that traditional firefighting vehicles cannot reach have highlighted the need for aerial intervention by specialized teams capable of accessing remote and otherwise inaccessible areas. In this context, and with SNF’s support, members of the Special Forestry Operations Units recently traveled to Spain to attend a helicopter forest-fire-fighting training program. There, they gained experience in firefighting strategies and tactics, safely boarding and disembarking from a hovering helicopter, and more. Additionally, Fire Corps instructors participated in a program for managing hazardous materials, traffic collisions, and fire behavior in enclosed spaces at the Fire Service College in Moreton-in-Marsh, UK, subsequently training the rest of the Corps upon their return. For several years in the past, SNF also supported a training program on forest fires with the British Columbia Wildfire Service in Canada, with participants training their colleagues in Greece upon their return.
During the inauguration event, Chief of the Hellenic Fire Corps Lieutenant General George Pournaras said: “The new Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Hellenic Fire Corps Training Center, inaugurated today in Nea Makri, has arrived to fulfill a long-held dream and the expectations of every firefighter by providing modern, comprehensive, and complete training based on the latest technologies and scientific data. The training provided will equip them with the tools necessary to ensure they are ready to face the challenges of the moment in carrying out their mission. This center, with its modern training tools and state-of-the-art equipment, will cover all the training needs of the Fire Corps personnel. In this effort, a valuable contribution is the large grant from SNF, which has been supporting the Fire Corps for many years. We owe a big thank you to the Co-President and the members of the Board of Directors of the Foundation, as well as to all those who contributed to making this dream come true. We have to provide all the necessary support to have a well-trained staff with knowledge and appropriate tools to successfully carry out the important work that the Greek state has entrusted to us. With the creation of this modern training center, the foundations have been laid. Let us all build on them.”
SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos said: “On behalf of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), I would like to express our joy and pride in being here today. We would like to thank the Fire Corps, first and foremost, for their trust in us as we work together and for the opportunity they have given us to contribute to such an important project. The times we live in are particularly difficult for everyone, with natural and man-made disasters occurring with increased frequency around the world and in Greece. Therefore, the demands placed on the Fire Corps are also increasing, since its mission is primarily to protect our lives, our wildlands, and everyone’s property. We, as members of the public, unfortunately often take it for granted that the Fire Corps will always be there to face any danger. And we frequently forget that firefighters are people too, with needs like the rest of us. They need equipment and training, but above all, they require support in order to be able to perform their challenging work. In order to have a fire corps that is capable and prepared, we need to provide the necessary tools and the best possible training for its personnel. A modern training center like the one we are in today is the bedrock upon which the Fire Corps as an institution, and especially its people, stand so that they can offer their critical services to society. In closing, I would like to extend a big thank you, on behalf of the Foundation, to the people of the Fire Corps, to all firefighters, for what they offer with confidence, courage, and selflessness to the Fire Corps and, consequently, to society in general.”