4.1 Greece’s preparedness for future wildfires
In response to the 2007 wildfires, Greece has taken steps to be better prepared for future wildfire threats. However, there are disagreements about the effectiveness of these measures. Some argue that the emphasis should be placed on preventing wildfires. Others think it is best to ensure that there are robust systems for responding to wildfires. The following videos are interviews with stakeholders in these debates. The first interview is with Dr Gavriil Xanthopoulos, from the Institute of Mediterranean Forest Ecosystems in Athens. The second interview is with George Konstantakoplous, Fire Officer of the Pyrgos Fire Service.
As you watch these two videos reflect on the following questions. You may find it useful to watch each video more than once.
- How prepared is Greece now for the hazard of wildfires?
- What has been learned about how the fires were caused in 2007 and how effective the response was?
- If there were shortcomings with the response to the 2007 wildfires, what was behind these and what action has been taken to overcome them since?
- To what extent do Dr Gavriil Xanthopoulous and George Kontantakoplous agree in their discussion of these issues? Why might they have different perspectives?
Your answers may have included some of the following points:
Dr Gavriil Xanthopoulous emphasises the importance of prevention over suppression. He acknowledges that the suppression of wildfires has a role to play. However, he emphasises how maintaining forests and agricultural land is a more effective way of preventing large scale wildfires. Dr Gavriil Xanthopoulous thinks that Greece is not sufficiently prepared for future wildfires and that a situation like the 2007 wildfires could easily happen again. He argues that not enough time or resources are being invested in improving the management of the environment and that too much power has been given to the Fire Service in the process of preventing and responding to wildfires. He does identify that new forest maps as a step towards improving forest management, but this alone is not sufficient to prevent more fires like those in 2007. Finally, Dr Gavriil Xanthopoulous identifies the USA National Incident Management System as a good example of how different services can work together to prepare for and respond to environmental challenges.
George Kontantakoplous is more positive about Greek’s preparedness for future fires. He thinks that prevention and suppression are both important in the fight against wildfire. However, as a member of the fire service, he is primarily responsible for improving suppression techniques. He argues that as a result of the 2007 wildfires, lessons have been learnt about the importance of prevention, including effectively educating communities about their civil responsibilities. He also identifies that in response to the 2007 wildfires, the fire service has improved its co-ordination and training methods and has recruited more volunteers. George Kontantakoplous discusses several changes that have been made to fire-fighting practices since the 2007 wildfires. These include a new system for monitoring firefighting vehicles, the use of drones, and finding ways to work across services.
Dr Gavriil Xanthopoulous and George Kontantakoplous have different opinions on the extent to which prevention or suppression should be the focus of steps to prepare for the environmental challenge of future wildfires. However, they also agree about the importance of combining prevention and suppression techniques.