Greek firefighting 'commandos' kept busy long after the flames are out
Evangelo Sipsas in Athens

Greece's wildfires have died down for now, but that does not mean the work of its firefighters is done: Instead they have turned their focus to prevention in a bid to end the summer without having to battle such severe blazes.

The so-called 'commandos' of Greece's fire brigade are often the first on the scene when a fire breaks out, but since things have turned quieter around Athens, they have been trying to keep it this way. 

That means creating fire-minimizing zones, cutting away trees or branches that could act as an accelerator to wildfires, and watering the soil - a seemingly simple but important technique aimed at keeping the ground moist to stop the spread of blazes. 


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"The team is creating a fire zone with shovels, axes, and other tools," fire brigade lieutenant Vasilis Dardamanis tells CGTN Europe. 

"They dig in just so much so the ground can match the height of the flame and cut it off before spreading," he says. 

On the other side of town, another unit is doing a similar job - preventing or identifying any hotspots from above.

"We mostly use drones for surveying areas vulnerable to fires," says head of the fire brigade's drone unit, Aleksandra Tzoumerka.

"We also do surveillance during the night trying to identify warm areas that could help start a fire. Me and my unit have participated in almost every wildfire this season, you can pretty much say we are the eyes of the emergency response unit from above."

This year Greece has experienced one of its most difficult fire seasons, with over 1400 wildfires breaking out last month, stretching the state's power to respond to its limits.

Kostas Tsigas, head of one of Greece's firefighters union, explains the extent of the challenge. 

"The weather conditions of the past 15 days were very difficult," he says. "As a result, we saw a number of very aggressive wildfires. Unfortunately, it caused much damage and the death of several people." 

"That's why we still remain on high alert, us and the foreign firefighters in the country," he adds.

Indeed, firefighters from abroad and their technical equipment have been brought into Greece as part of an EU exchange program to target the blazes.

"During the fires, we do whatever we can to put out the fire and protect people and their properties, but we need to understand sometimes it's beyond our powers," says Vice Admiral of the Hellenic Fire Brigade, Vasilios Bikas.

"That's why we need as many hands as we can, so when our neighbors give us a helping hand, it's a relief to know that we are united in this battle."

For those on the frontlines of Greece's wildfires, there is the hope that such reinforcements will not be as necessary now as they were earlier in the summer. 

But changes in Greece's weather patterns could come at any time, so its firefighters remain vigilant, hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. 

Greek firefighting 'commandos' kept busy long after the flames are out

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