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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Greece. Polish firefighters help put out fires. “Here we learn to use water very sparingly”

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Heat pouring from the sky, water shortages, fast-spreading fire. Polish firefighters do a lot of work in Greece, despite extremely unfavorable conditions. Brigadier Grzegorz Borowiec, the commander of the Polish firemen’s module, talked about the details in the program “You get up and know”.

The current activities of Polish firefighters are carried out in two sectors. The first is to protect the capital of the country – Athens. The second is to supervise sections that have already been affected by flames and there is a risk of further fires.

– Now there are hot spots, i.e. places where fires are constantly active. We have to “catch” them in the bud, i.e. when they have not yet developed enough to pose a serious threat – said Brigadier Grzegorz Borowiec, commander of the Polish firefighting module operating in Greece.

Polish firefighters in Greecejunior captain Lukasz Nowak, GFFFV Poland

>>> Check: Greece on fire. View fire map

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Firefighting in Poland and Greece

Borowiec mentioned that despite full autonomy and the necessary equipment, firefighters sometimes have a problem with the availability of water. – Water is one of the most sensitive elements. We take large, fold-out tanks with us and our cars drop the supply in them, if you need to give a large amount of water quickly. And we refuel from hydrants, we have a municipal network, designated hydrants. Unfortunately, we do not have such comfort as in Poland that we can refuel vehicles from every lake or river. Here we learn how to use water very sparingly, because it is a scarce commodity here – he said.

As he added, firefighters became familiar with firefighting techniques in the Greek climate two years ago, and now the skills are being improved. – For a Polish firefighter, this is very different from what we do in our country. We have no problem at all, if you need to pour water, we pour as much as possible, especially in typically open fires, where the amount of water is of great importance. Because if we moisten the area in front of us, the fire simply won’t be able to develop. If we have a situation like this, we simply do not have the comfort to wet the area, because we would waste resources – he explained.

Borowiec added that another difference between the fires in Poland and Greece is the rate at which the fire spreads. – The fire will not develop so quickly and intensively here. In addition, we have designated fire roads in Poland, our forests are more like commercial forests. They are prepared to enter there and carry out firefighting operations. Here we have a mountainous area, there are no roads that would go into the middle of such terrain, so it is often the case that there is simply no way to get to the source of the fire – he said. – Here the fire develops in a minute, with us it takes a little longer. “From the time we saw the first smoke or small flame here to the time we had a really developed fire, it was seven minutes,” he said.

The wind also plays a huge role in the development of Greek wildfires. With strong gusts, there is a risk that the flames may cover an area larger by several dozen kilometers. Much also depends on the terrain. Borowiec admitted that it is much more difficult to carry out actions in a mountainous landscape.

>>> See also: Tourists evacuated from the island of Rhodes landed at Okęcie. They talk about escaping from fires

Unfavorable conditions

The current conditions in Greece are extremely unfavorable. Another heatwave is headed for the country, which will push the temperature to 45 degrees Celsius. Borowiec said that it is not easy for firefighters working “at the front”. – For safety, we must wear jackets, which means that with prolonged operation, active fires can lead to rapid dehydration of the body, which is why we have introduced four changes. We try to minimize this time of staying in full sun and with activities to the shortest possible time. And we try to ensure that all those who are on the base at the moment, to rest in air-conditioned rooms, to regenerate as soon as possible and return to action. We can’t afford to let the rescuers “spile out” – he said.

The firefighter added that in crisis situations they can call planes for help. – They do a bigger job because they “catch” the front of the fire. When they make raids, they drop water in places where this fire is moving, very often simply into the largest flames, to weaken this fire. At the moment when a weakened fire reaches rescuers in cars, we are in the most comfortable situation, because we do not have to fight a fully developed fire, only a subdued one, which we only put out – he described.

Borowiec also mentioned that each firefighter is equipped with radios that allow for efficient communication. – We are able to find out in a few seconds what is happening in a specific combat section, i.e. where our rescuers were operating. We have to be careful all the time, because fires appear out of nowhere and quickly spread to large areas – summed up Borowiec.

>>> Read more: Another heatwave will hit Greece. Extreme fire risk in Crete


An important and difficult task

According to the commander-in-chief of the State Fire Service, Brig. Andrzej Bartkowiak, Tuesday’s task of protecting Athens is extremely important, but difficult. – We are in the Villa Tika region and we have our base there. Virtually every day, every fire that arises is nipped by us in the bud. As soon as we arrived, we were dealing with two large fires – said the general. – Even after the fire is extinguished, we have to send people to quickly eliminate and neutralize all the fires, because further fires rise from these fires if there is a strong wind. […] There are experienced commanders who set up the rotation of our people who work there 24 hours a day. There are 149 people, there is someone to rotate and work with. They are experienced firefighters, so I’m calm about it. There are the first faintings among our people, but there are doctors on site to take care of our people. We have everything under control, he said.

The head of the PSP was also asked what advice he would give to tourists who are in Greece. – I do not envy the tourists who are on all these islands. I also follow information from Polish tourists, to whom I hope that nothing will happen – he said. – First of all, let’s listen to the messages, let’s be disciplined in this regard. We must not underestimate fires. Forest fires and the specificity of these thickets in Greece is that they develop very quickly. Very often they turn into so-called apical fires. No jokes with them. Just a few, several minutes and it’s several hectares. Please heed the instructions of all firefighters who are on site.

You can watch the whole conversation with Brigadier Grzegorz Borowiec here:

Brigadier Grzegorz Borowiec on the activities of Polish firefighters in GreeceTVN24, Reuters

Main photo source: junior captain Lukasz Nowak, GFFFV Poland

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