Support Programme for Volunteer Forest Firefighter Teams: Standing by the Volunteers for Another Two Years
29 May '24

Recognizing the vital role played by volunteer forest firefighter teams play in combating and mitigating the impact of forest fires, WWF Greece, NPF Desmos, and HIGGS (Higher Incubator Giving Growth & Sustainability) implemented the Support Programme for Volunteer Forest Firefighter Teams 2022-2024. The Programme aimed to train, support, and strengthen the efforts of volunteer teams in both preventing and combatting forest fires, once again highlighting the invaluable contribution of those consistently at the forefront of forest fire response with self-sacrifice.

Through this Programme, implemented within the framework of "Protovoulia '21" and supported by the Athina I. Martinou Foundation, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation and the National Bank of Greece, a total of 1,936 volunteers from 50 forest firefighting teams across Rhodes to Evros were provided with high-quality equipment, while 574 volunteers from 118 teams nationwide received specialized training. This was achieved through an evaluation methodology based on needs assesment and continuous interaction with the teams.

The design and implementation of the Programme were based on the critical and long-standing needs of the volunteer teams, both for material equipment and for training — essential tools enabling volunteer forest firefighter teams to safely and effectively meet the demands of their mission to protect our forests and citizens.

The substantial contribution of the Programme was particularly evident during the 2023 wildfires in Greece, where 47 out of the 50 teams supported through the Programme played a pivotal role in responding to the fires that occurred in Attica, Corinth, Rhodes, and Evros, utilizing both the equipment provided and the specialized knowledge gained from the training workshops. Furthermore, additional resources were swiftly mobilized to support teams operating in areas impacted by the devastating fires and floods of 2023 in Greece.

The second cycle of the Programme aims to build upon and deepen the established trust with the volunteer forest firefighter teams. It focuses on further enhancing their operational capacity and identifying ways to optimize their effectiveness.

The new, upgraded, and particularly ambitious two-year support and training programme for volunteer forest firefighter teams (2024-2026) is supported by the National Bank of Greece, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation, and the Athina I. Martinou Foundation.

The second cycle of the Programme aims to extend additional support to volunteer forest firefighter teams throughout Greece, enabling them to operate in a structured and secure manner for forest fire suppression. This will be achieved by providing specialized equipment, particularly focusing on mobilizing and training volunteer ground units, along with offering advanced training in specific forest fire topics through experiential learning workshops. It will also include additional training actions for local communities on the content and design of prevention actions, as well as active interventions in public dialogue aimed at implementing relevant legislation and further enhancing social participation in tackling forest fires.

Specifically, the second cycle of the Programme will be structured baed on three axes:

  1. Support with specialized firefighting equipment for volunteer forest firefighter teams selected throught Greece.
  2. Training through: a) Experiential workshops on the operation and organisation of volunteer firefighting ground units in 10 selected areas, b) Online prevention workshops aimed at local authorities and the general public, and c) Creation of an online hub for networking and information exchange among volunteer forest firefighter teams in Greece.
  3. Engaging in public discourse by submitting documented proposals to relevant authorities and overseeing the advancement towards the complete and prompt activation of the public mechanism for utilizing volunteer forest firefighter teams, as outlined in the existing legal framework. This aims to reinforce the role of volunteers and involve local communities actively.

Volunteer forest firefighter teams reprsent one of the most active parts of Civil Society, whose support is not just essential but also imperative. This support enables them to contribute even more effectively to the protection of our forests and to aid local communities in combating forest fires.

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