Monday, August 27, 2007
The government of Finland has announced it will offer to send three specialist firefighting helicopters, 25 firefighters and 2-3 forest fire experts to Greece via the European Union to assist with the forest fire emergency Greece is currently experiencing.
Greece is currently in urgent need of fixed-wing aircraft with water-bombing capabilities, assets which Finland does not posses. If the Greek authorities deem Finland’s offers to be suitable, they will be dispatched with immediate effect, within six hours of Greece requesting the rotorcraft and personnel.
It is thought that the men would most likely be put to use protecting built-up areas in an attempt to prevent the death toll, already over 60, from rising any higher.
The helicopters have been sourced via a private company. Finland said that the country could not commit to send the aircraft any sooner without arrangements being made to cover their removal from service, as otherwise safety in Finland would be severely jeopardised, with emergency aircraft unavailable should Finland experience any fires of its own.
The helicopters Finland have available can each carry up to 800 litres of water or foam retardant, whereas large firefighting planes can carry tens of thousands of litres.
Finland had previously thought they would be unable to spare any help for Greece, and it was only after much sourcing of aircraft from the private sector that Finland was able to make the offer. Finland are also looking into whether they may be of assistance in reforestation efforts after the fires have been extinguished.