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A new fire season with inadequate means

The country is heading to another summer fire season faced with an aging fleet of fire fighting aircraft, and a lack of vehicles and personnel.

The condition of the fleet of fire fighting aircraft was admitted by citizen protection minister Nikos Dendias, in a conference at the Fire Department's Operations Control Center, convened to deal with the new season.

Mr Dendias admitted the condition and added that during these dire economic times the country is facing the perennial fire problem with very limited means.

The Air Force fire fighting fleet comprises 20 Canadair aircraft, one of which is out of commission since last Monday when it overturned while attempting to draw water, in Mechaniona, Thessaloniki prefecture.

According to fire department spokesman, Nikolaos Tsongas, of the remaining 19 aircraft, only 12-14 are available on any given day for operational service. The Air Force has a tough time maintaining the aircraft due to frequent malfunctions.

The fleet only has 5 of the newer CL-415, while the rest are the older CL-215s purchased. The older aircraft have limitations in terms of temperature. Essentially, as Mr Dendias admitted the department cannot know how many aircraft it will have available on a daily basis.

At the same time the five fire department helicopters, only started to be used operationally last year, because of a dearth of really meager funds. The fire department was forced to find makeshift low cost solutions to utilize them, as well as motorcycles that had been purchased but never used.