Call for Help to Assist in Managing the Forest Fires on Samos Island, Greece
The following call for assistance was received by the GFMC from Gerling Sustainable Development (GSDP) GmbH, on 11 July 2000 at 13:00 GMT
On Samos Island the second and worst forest fire in the year 2000 broke out on Thursday 6 July 2000 at 7:30 p.m. Until now the fires are multiple and cover up to now an area of far over 3000 ha. The strong winds of 6-8 beaufort and changing directions make the fire fighting more difficult facing up to 70 meters high flames and a huge thermal radiation which leads to a high velocity of the fire transportation over the island.
On 10 July 2000 520 firemen of state brigades with 60 fire engines supported by five air fire fighting vehicles (three M26 helicopters and two C130 airplanes) are fighting against the fires to save lives and possessions of the inhabitants of Samos Island as well as to stop the fire destroying the almost virgin biosphere of thousands of species of plants and animals.
Two monasteries dated before the year 1500 BC. and parts of five villages are victims of the fires. Although it is remarkable that there are no human victims in spite of one 93-years old lady which decided to return into her burning house to take something out.
The burning down of the electric grid let to the power interruption for whole west Samos and the Fourni Island Group which is connected to Samos Island via Sea cable. The Tourists are massively leaving the Island and others who planned their vacancies on Samos are cancelling their bookings, which is made easy for them by the tour operators which responded immediately making alternative offers to their clients but up to now making no offers to help the burning down Island, which was capable of receiving more than 300,000 Tourists from charter packages a season. The damage to the local economy is huge.
Latest news (morning of 11 July 2000) talk about an estimation that together with the fires of March this year about 3/4 of the forest on Samos is burned down. Local authorities fear that the inhabitants especially the young people will start to leave Samos after this catastrophe. The winds at the moment stopped and the fires are almost under control but this is a very weak stabilisation because any weather change and cases of re-ignition could lead to further catastrophes. Especially regarding that the fact that the state brigades will have to leave the Island.
It is necessary to act and to organise an emergency help for Samos which will directly have positive influences to the local situation. Gerling SDP having set up a plan for the Sustainable Development of the Prefecture of Samos with a work of two years is especially concerned about the catastrophe and initiates a direct help in form of technical, organisational and financial help to Samos.
We start with an initial budget of 50,000 DM to set up a series of immediate donations with the purpose of sending special forces and material in form of specialised extinguishing products for forest fires to be applied with the consultation of international specialists to extinguish fires more effectively and to keep the fire sources that are extinguished under control after the state fire brigades leave the Island due to the need to fight fire fronts in other areas of Greece.
Finally on a medium term scale immediate activities to minimise the soil erosion following a forest fire of this extent are of crucial necessity .
Necessary medium-term measures
Medium term wise it must also be achieved to set up an organisation of the precaution of such natural catastrophes with quick identification and response systems and technologies. This has to be done with the support and use of technologies like Geo Information Systems – GIS using Earth Observation Data from Satellites. A fully integrated approach to the technical and organisational fire protection incl. the organisation of fire watches, detailed emergency response plans, investment plans for technical equipment and training for
special response forces,
volunteer task forces and
the whole population of Samos for the right response in case of forest fires is needed.
The mass of partially or fully burned wood could be recycled in a way and give jobs to some of the people that were hit by the fires loosing their fields, olive trees, wine yards, bee stocks and so on. The already in May identified priority of installing a biomass treatment installation may no be a necessary and helpful step to rehabilitate the former forest grounds.
Call for immediate help
We call for immediate uncomplicated support for the direct activities and for the declaration for the support of the following necessary medium term measures. We thank all interested and competent bodies for their support.