Peloponnese, Greece Nikos Nikolakopoulos has been a fire fighter in Pyrgos, Greece for the last 22 years. “To be a fire fighter,” he says very simply, “you have to like action and you cannot be afraid of fire.” Pyrgos is located in Greece’s southern Peloponnese region, which suffered the loss of tens of thousands of acres and livestock to last year’s wildfires, widely considered to be Greece’s worst fires in 100 years.
The wildfires also claimed 61 lives, three of which were members of the Pyrgos Fire Department. All three fire fighters were colleagues of Nikolakopoulos and one was a close friend.
Nikolakopoulos was among the first who reached the site of the tragedy. The fire fighters perished when they were choked by the heavy smoke, even though the fire was blown away in a few minutes by strong winds. Nikolakopoulos believes that his three colleagues would still be alive today had they been equipped with fire shelters, the coverings that provide protection from radiant and convective heat and are used in entrapment situations.
Through a new $118,000 grant from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, IOCC is helping the Fire Department of Pyrgos improve fire fighters’ safety and enhance their ability to effectively combat wildfires by providing 255 fire shelters and training its fire fighters on how to use the equipment.
IOCC has been developing innovative ways of assisting Greece’s Peloponnese region to combat wildfires during its dry, hot summers. Since 2007, it has assisted thousands of Peloponnese farmers with 3,100 tons of animal feed as well as 60 tons of seed to replant grasslands.
The Peloponnese was struck again by wildfires in 2008 but they didn’t have the intensity or range of the 2007 fires.
With its high temperatures and sparse rain from April to November, wildfires will continue to be a challenge for the Peloponnese.
— Dimitri Djukic/IOCC Greece
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