With the memories from last year's disastrous fire season still fresh, NPF Desmos, in cooperation with WWF Hellas and HIGGS (Higher Incubator Giving Growth & Sustainability), take nationwide action, launching the Support Programme for Voluntary Forest Fire Protection Groups. A revitalising initiative, which consists of numerous actions aiming at training, strengthening and supporting the work of these groups in preventing and responding to forest fires. The programme is being implemented with the support of the Athina I. Martinou Foundation, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation and the National Bank of Greece, and it will run until 2024.
Voluntary forest fire protection groups are constantly on the front line of forest fires, making a key contribution to the work of the competent State authorities, such as the Fire Service and Civil Protection. In many cases, voluntary groups are the first to detect the outbreak of major forest fire incidents, and they contribute to providing an immediate response. However, their effort and key contribution unfortunately lack sufficient support in terms of the necessary equipment and expertise required. It is imperative that volunteers be provided with essential supplies, equipment and training so as to continue to be a crucial link in the national forest fire protection system.
With this in mind, the support initiative will be deployed in two parallel axes: (a) a significant strengthening of voluntary groups in terms of equipment; and (b) the training on forest fires through specialised workshops.
In particular, the first axis will focus on recording, assessing and strengthening the voluntary groups. Furthermore, the groups’ needs in terms of equipment and resources will also be recorded and prioritised in order to draw up a comprehensive support plan and provide them with high standard equipment, significantly upgrading their operational capabilities. This support targets a total of 50 voluntary groups from all over Greece, to be selected on the basis of specific evaluation criteria –such as whether forest fire protection is the group’s main activity, or whether the group operates in an area with a history of forest fires and a high-risk index for the future– as well as on the basis of a tested methodology, through a targeted questionnaire assessing the needs of the groups, and field visits.
The second axis seeks to implement specialised training workshops on preventing and responding to forest fires, as well as on restoring burnt forest areas; the workshops will be led by scientists with many years of relevant experience. The training programme targets all voluntary forest fire protection groups operating in all 13 Regions of the country, with an emphasis on specific areas with high records of forest fires and a strong presence of voluntary groups. The workshops –the participation in which is free of charge for the groups– will advance the knowledge of the volunteers so that they can operate more efficiently and safely. The training workshops have already started, with the active participation of more than 265 representatives and 53 voluntary groups, in Attica, Samos, the South Aegean, Western Greece and the Peloponnese.
Emily Kern, General Manager at DESMOS, has stated that:
“With the aim of responsibly and effectively harnessing the contribution of private initiative in meeting the needs of civil society, DESMOS is very happy to assist in the work of supporting voluntary forest fire protection groups. The synergy between the donors of the Athina I. Martinou Foundation, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation and the National Bank of Greece for the support of the initiative of NPF Desmos, WWF Hellas and HIGGS is a striking example of what people can do for the common good when they stand together. Recognising the pivotal role of volunteerism in forest protection and firefighting, together we have designed a programme to strengthen voluntary forest fire protection groups throughout Greece”.
Panagiota Maragou, Head of Environmental Protection Programmes at WWF Hellas, has stated that:
“Voluntary forest fire protection groups always operate with selflessness and self-denial, and they project their strong humane and environmental motivation. Voluntary forest fire protection groups are a main pillar of reducing the intensity and impact of forest fires, both in at suppression and prevention level, therefore, we are very happy to be able to support them in a meaningful way through this programme. Our vision is that this project will ensure viability of the voluntary groups in terms of equipment and know-how for the years to come, so that they can operate with competence, efficiency and safety”.
Sotiris Petropoulos, co-founder of HIGGS, has stated that:
“The main objective of HIGGS is to strengthen the operation of all non-profit organisations and public benefit endeavours in Greece, so that they become more effective and viable, by offering educational programmes specifically designed to meet their needs. For many decades, voluntary forest fire protection groups have been one of the most important pillars of public benefit services in Greece, actively and substantially contributing to the protection of both the environment and our fellow citizens. We are particularly proud to participate in this joint effort to strengthen such groups, through the implementation of specialised training workshops, which we hope will give them all the necessary skills to successfully continue their valuable work”.