Three radar dishes to help give early warning of fires, combined with the planting of slow-burning vegetation that prevents flames from spreading rapidly, are two methods that authorities in Thessaloniki have selected to protect the suburban Sheikh Sou Forest near the city, local officials said on Wednesday.
“When there is a fire, in the initial stages you can put it out with a glass of water. The longer one delays, the harder the work of the fire brigade becomes,” the head of the Central Macedonia Region Autonomous Civil Protection Department Babis Stergiadis said, during a press conference.
The radar dishes will be set up in different locations within the forest and will be bale to alert the fire brigade to fires in just two minutes. The system will be commissioned by the Central Macedonia Region authority, using either EU funds or its own resources, and will be able to pinpoint the exact location where a fire has started, allowing the fire brigade to intervene extremely quickly to prevent it from spreading.
The press conference was also held to announce the planting on Sunday of plants that are slow to catch fire, such as oleanders, acacias and rosemary, on the side of the roads going through the forest.
According to Stergiadis, the region’s governor had asked that all preparations be made for the radar system to go online and be used during the summer.
He said the radar system will cover all the suburban forest and, in comparison with the satellite systems that are currently used and which can locate the source of a fire within a radius of 1,500 metres, the radar system will be accurate to a range of just 15 metres. The project will cost roughly one million euros and the plan is to gradually extend the use of the system, which will also be able to determine the type of fire (cigarette, grass, rubbish etc), throughout Central Macedonia.
Regarding the planting, Stergiadis said this will start with 1500 plants along a length of road measuring 1,100 metres on Sunday, from the Philipio junction to the Philyros junction. At a later stage, more shrubs of this type will be planted up to the Triandria junction, creating a “fence” designed to slow the spread of fire through the Sheikh Sou forest, especially along those routes where the risk of a fire starting was the greatest, especially from lit cigarettes as vehicles moved along the road.
Officials noted that the removal of 55.5 thousand tonnes of large objects from the forest the previous year helped prevent more than 10 fires.
The planting will be carried out through the cooperation of the Central Macedonia Region Authority and the fire brigade, traffic police, Macedonia-Thrace reforestation department that will supply the plants, with the assistance of volunteers and Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) staff, who will also assist in caring for the plants for the nex two years.