On Thursday, 07 May 2020, the Minister of National Defence Mr. Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos chaired a meeting at "Ioannis Kapodistrias" Ηall regarding the preparation of the forest fire prevention season and ensuring the required coordination between the Ministry of National Defence and the General Secretariat for Civil Protection of the Ministry of Citizen Protection.
The meeting was also attended by the Deputy Minister of Civil Protection and Crisis Management Mr. Nikos Hardalias, the Secretary Generals of the Ministry of National Defence Mr. Antonios Oikonomou and of Civil Protection Mr. Vassilios Papageorgiou, the Chief/HNDGS General Konstantinos Floros, the Chief/HAFGS Lieutenant General Georgios Blioumis, the Chief/HAGS Lieutenant General Charalambos Laloussis, the Chief/HNGS Vice Admiral Stylianos Petrakis HN and the Chief of the Fire Service Lieutenant General Stefanos Kolokouris FS, as well as other pertinent bodies.
During the meeting, the results of the 2019 forest fire prevention season were discussed in order to be evaluated, and estimations were made regarding the Armed Forces’ contribution to the General Secretariat for Civil Protection during the 2020 forest fire prevention season; the availability of air assets was also assessed. Logistics issues were also discussed, views were exchanged regarding the general planning of forest protection-surveillance through land and air assets and the allocation, deployment, arrangement of surveillance and fire protection air assets were thoroughly examined.
At the opening of the meeting, the Minister of National Defence Mr. Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos pointed out the following:
“Minister, dear Secretary Generals, honourable Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff, Top-Ranking Members of the Fire Service, welcome to the Ministry of National Defence.
It is a pleasure to have you here with us, because at the beginning of the forest fire prevention season, cooperation among our departments, the Ministry and the General Staffs, is necessary for several reasons. As you understand, we must consider the way we shall organise the coordination of operations, which inevitably will occur during this forest fire prevention season as well.
I wish I could expect the opposite, but to be realistic, we cannot do that: to simultaneously examine preventive and curative measures. As you can understand, the work to be done for this season, which has started already, revolves around personnel and assets.
The personnel consist of the Fire Service and Armed Forces members. The experience we have had so far shows that the personnel, when necessary, surpass themselves. However, planning and coordination are desirable, so that the cases when the personnel will have to surpass themselves are the fewer possible. This is the reason why we are here today.
Other than that, regarding the assets, you all know about the Armed Forces’ contribution, mainly using air fire fighting assets, but not only those, with regard to the fire fighting work every year; in order for these assets to have the best availability, work and coordination must precede throughout the year, given the problems that the Hellenic Airspace Industry faces these days – problems that pre-existed, but currently come to surface.
Our mission is to ensure the conditions, so that most, if possible, fire fighting assets -and especially air fire fighting assets- are functional and effective. We have the data in our hands, in our possession, and surely the pressure will be intensified, the time tables do not entirely please us, but I think we can do better.
In any case, when the fire fighting period begins, we will have an efficient number of assets. But we expect more assets later this season. Our mission and goal is to solve the problems inside the Hellenic Airspace Industry as well, despite the fact that it is not supervised by us, but its almost 100% activity is reported to us, so that we can have maximum possibility, mainly of 415 and 215 ‘Canadair’ aircraft.
We will begin with six and will reach nine during this period, God willing, and we will make sure that everything is all right. In any case though, as you understand, the life cycle of the aircraft and assets, their wear and tear after every sortie, create needs and demands. We are here to deal with them.
In any case, Minister, you faced hard conditions from the beginning, you swam in deep waters if I may say, you showed with your effort, stance and persistence that you are strong, that yourself and your team can deal with it. Now, along with the severe coronavirus crisis, you are called to make another effort with us, so that we have the best results during the fire fighting period.
We will do it together, count on us and on the cooperation that will be developed between the Chiefs of Corps and Staffs. It can not be done in any other way, either in coordinative or operational level. With these words I welcome you and wish you strength and good luck during the entire forest fire prevention season.
We wish for the least possible damage and, regarding prevention and control, for the greatest possible activity from our side. Welcome, Minister’.
The Deputy Minister of Civil Protection Mr. Nikos Hardalias, stated:
“It is my turn to thank you for your hospitality and the welcoming. I feel the need to express it exactly as I feel it: for our up to now cooperation, I am honored, proud and grateful and I do not refer only to forest fire prevention issues. I refer to the huge effort made by the Armed Forces to be present at every part of the country, any time, behaving in a very modest way.
Coping with the coronavirus just showed the need for a joint cooperation of the General Secretariat which, through the new law, slowly develops into a national crises management mechanism.
Crises that, if dealt without the Armed Forces’ experience, knowledge and operational capability, are not easily manageable. It is really worth mentioning that, in hard times, Military Doctors went to Xanthi and other areas to support the National Health System.
The Military nurses, even today, have the absolute responsibility for the thousands of people coming to the country, since everyone has to be examined for the virus; through an exemplary procedure and specific platforms, thanks to which we can evaluate the examinations’ results. They are also responsible for those who have to be isolated. Without this capability, the country would have faced a lot of problems.
So, for us, the cooperation with the Armed Forces is something that we not only seek, but also consider necessary for the future of Civil Protection. Obviously, Civil Protection will create vertical structures in the country, in order to be able to cope with a lot of challenges and threats, based on the new plan, the new Law regarding National Mechanism. I do not wish to tire you more; a series of meetings, correspondence and consultations has already been held among the members of the Fire Service, the General Secretariat and the Armed Forces as well, regarding the new forest fire prevention season, obviously under the conditions that we are called to face; any challenges concerning climate change and the forest fire prevention season data. I believe we have made important steps forward and I think, this summer, we can jointly prove that, through organisation, we can achieve excellent results – being serious and following the imposed plan.
Besides, what we jointly serve under the umbrella of the forest fire prevention season is nothing more but three Articles of the Constitution, concerning human life, human property and natural environment. I believe that never before, in peacetime, has a mission been called to win more bets.
Thank you very much for your cooperation until now. I believe we pave the roads and we will endure the pressure of the situations that we have to face, in order to achieve outstanding results; we not only wish for the Armed Forces to be useful in the effort that we make, but also for us to contribute to the Armed Forces’ effort, within our capabilities’.
The Chief/HNDGS General Konstantinos Floros pointed out the following:
‘What we are about to do today will be the capstone of an effort which began a few months ago, in order for us to be prepared for the forest fire prevention season, as we do every year.
Most issues have been agreed on, they have been recorded in our Orders regarding the Forest Fire Prevention Season. Now, we will have a ‘sum up’, a review, we may add or lift some arrangements, which will make the situations’ management easier and more effective, if they may arise (we hope not).
Each General Staff knows what it will have to allocate from its assets ever time. From then on, it is simple to stick to the procedures, and to keep in mind that: yes, we have the assets, but every time we must use them accordingly -as we do every year- because we are old acquaintances with the Fire Fighters as well.
I think, this way, and through the way that you described Minister, we will have a quiet and effective fire prevention period; and, principally, quiet’.