Hellenic Fire Brigade History

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Edit by John S. Retsios,Translated by Maria Kox Lee

In 1833, that is as soon as the Greek nation was founded, the responsibility of fire safety was passed on to prefect governors (nomarhes) (decree 26/4 – 8/5/1833). Furthermore each municipality was responsible to provide staff «forest rangers» and the means to suppress and extinguish fires. Finally, the regiments of Army Trench Diggers (skapanes) were responsible for all public building fire safety.

In 1854 the «Firefighter Regiment» was founded with 92 men in its ranks.
In 1861 the regiment expanded to «Joined regiment trench diggers and firefighters». Apart from the firefighter’s tasks, this joined regiment was involved in road construction works. Fire suppression tasks were aided by the Greek Regional Guard (Chorofilaki) and theCommanding Guard Post (Frourarheio). In 1909 the Joined regiment was called uponsuppressing a huge fire that broke in the Palace, unsuccessfully.

 

In 1910 the «Fire Squadron» (Pirosvestiki Mira), with public servants and volunteers serving three year terms of employment.
On August 16th of 1910 during the effort to suppress a huge fire that broke in the Greek General National Chemistry building, many firemen were injured and three were killed.
The squadron was accountable to the Military ministry and in 1914 was renamed as «Fire Regiment». This regiment‘s services were offered exclusively in the cities of Athens, Piraeus, Thessaloniki and Patra. The rest of the cities were under the jurisdiction and facilitation of the municipalities.
The «Fire Corp» was formed on April 26th, as a separate section, completely independent from the Fire Regiment and the military.  In addition, this organization proved to be ineffective in dealing with major catastrophic fires that broke thereafter. Insurance companies were alarmed and raised the issue of reorganizing the fire department core.

 

On August 30th 1929 the Greek government catered Alkiviades Kokkinakis, a chemical engineer, (Greek refugee from Russia) former commander of Petersburg Fire department, to conduct a survey concerning the operational organization of Fire Service Corps in Greece.
The independent Fire Service dept. was founded (May 12th 1930) by legislation act4661/1930, concerning «Organizational structure of Fire Department Core». It was an independent Fire Service operating as N.P.D.D. (Legally represented company of Public Interest), operating under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Internal affairs, with internal legislative frame as well as independent management. Defining the founding of Fire department stations, it was specified that the decision would lay on the Minister of Interior, based on population, commercial and industrial importance of the municipality, and certain general as well as special obligations of any county. Since 1968 and according to Law Revision act 360, theFire Department is part of the Security Forces. Legislative act 1590/86 allows foundation of Fire Department stations in communities with industrial areas, or traffic junctions of great importance, and anywhere it is purposefully considered without any obligation of local authorities.

 

During the first decade after the voting of the previously mentioned legislative foundation act, and up until the outbreak of the Greek-Italian war, Fire Services (Fire Stations), started operating on the following cities:

  • 1932: Athens, Pireous and Thessaloniki (May)
  • 1933: Patra
  • 1935: Heraclion and Kavala
  • 1938: Volos
  • 1938: Larissa
  • 1940: Elefsis, Kalamata, Ioanenna, Preveza, Corfu, Florina, Kozany, Drama, Mytilinae, Seres and Agrenion.

By 12/31/1950 apart from the above mention cities, equipped with Fire Stations were the following cities: Rethemno, Lamia, Aegio, Drama, Lefkada, Pyrgos, Rodos, Halkida and Karditsa. Later, Fire Stations started operating in multiple city locations for example: Amfissa in 1953, Nafplion in 1954 and so on. The pace picked up by the end of 60ies and thereafter as follows:

  • 1968: Levadia
  • 1970: Argos, Alexanroupoli, Amaliada, Veria, Katereni and Messologi
  • 1971: Edessa
  • 1972: Polegeros
  • 1973: Egoumenitsa
  • 1975: Kozani
  • 1976: Elefsina, Kastoria, Lavrio and Orestiada
  • 1977: Theva and Saint Nickolaos
  • 1978:Gianetsa and Karpenesi
  • 1979: Kilkis, Zakenthos, Parga and Naoussa
  • 1980 : Thesprotiko, Leheana and Greavena
  • 1981: Gargaleani
  • 1983 : Eleftheroupolis
  • 1984: Argostoli
  • 1987: Samos

Nowadays we have 300 Fire Department Service Stations operating in all state capitals, as well as in cities of national importance such as Orestiada, Ierapetra, Diedimotiho, Myrina of Lemnos isle. In large cities that presented, increased Firefighting interest, more than one Fire stations were installed and operated, for example in Athens, Pireous,Thessaloniki, Patra, Heraclion, Hania, Corfu (02/1978), Ioannena (02/1978), Elefsina, Kavala, Kalamata, Larissa, Rodes (02/1978) and Kos.

During its early operational years, the Fire Department service core was managed by commanding officers who were dispatched from City Police (Astynomea Poleon) or the Constabulary (Chorofilaki). The situation was drastically altered in 1975, when Constantine Gikas, (fire dept. trained officer) was inaugurated   Department Chief.

In 1991 the Fire Department Core was the first public service agency that adopted the notion of volunteerism in Greece. The institution of Firefighting Volunteer was introduced and supported by law (l. 1951/91). It was an innovative initiative, considering the standard country practices, thus allowing the legitimate involvement and participation of trained and certified personnel, and active citizens in the Cores’ mission.
During the summer of 1998 (law act 2612) the Fire Department Core undertook the responsibility of commandment and suppression of forest fires, a task undertaken up until that time by the Forest Ranger Service. The corps was reinforced in materials and personnel through the transfers from the Forest Ranger Service, but the departmental shortages were not completely overcome. The department received hefty materials endorsement shortly before theAthens Olympic Games of 2004, never the less 19% of the vehicles is in service more than 15 years. The problem is primarily focused on rural firefighting services, since the equipment bought through the Olympic Games endorsement funds, were meant for cities that hosted Olympic sports. Today, the Fire Department operates having serious shortages in staff; since there is need of an additional 4.500 firefighters (forecasted organizational positions are 12.000. This shortage was intensified by a banning of new personnel hiring for several years, along with the retirement of older personnel-approximately 800 people per year). Increased responsibilities brought extra work load and the shortages of human and material resources created organizational dysfunctions.

Today, the Fire Department is served by 15.000 firefighters (8.000 permanent staff, 5.500 seasonal and 1.500 volunteers).

47 firefighters have been lost in active duty since 1930.

Up until 1995 the Fire Department was served only by men of all different ranks. The first two women to join the Fire Department ranks occurred in October 31st 1995, among other graduates of the 3rd rank (special enlistment procedure for degree graduate holders, mostly Polytechnic University Engineers, directly to the rank of Fire Department Lieutenant). Dr Saini Calliopi who is a doctor in Aeronautic Engineering, University of Patras and Adelais Philipidou, mechanical engineer graduate, Polytechnic University of Athens. Dr. Calliopi Saini is the first woman in the Fire Department Service, general duties rank who served as Combat Officer, Section Supervisor and General Duties Active Director whilst on January of 2009 became the first woman to hold a higher office rank for general duties. Today there are more than 300 women serving the Fire Department in all ranks (firefighters, lower degree officers and officers).

DISASTER MANAGEMENT SPECIAL UNITS (Ε.Μ.Α.Κ.- D.M.S.U.)

They are regional special services and belong to the fire services regional command and they operate whenever this is required, either in Greece, or abroad.

There are 8 E.M.A.K. – D.M.S.U:

  • 1st Elefsina Attica
  • 2nd Thessaloniki
  • 3rd Heraklion Creta
  • 4th Komotini
  • 5th Ioaninna
  • 6th Patra
  • 7th Lamia
  • 8th Larisa

MISSION

Dealing with special fires, oil refinery, tanks of liquid fuels, chemical products, explosives, in high build- ings and industrial facilities. Tackling with earthquakes and provision of help, as well as seeking disappeared persons. Encountering extensive disasters from floods and various types of accidents and the rescue of persons in danger. Dealing with leakage and release of hazardous materials and other environmental accidents. Reinforcing other Fire Services, in order to deal with large scale urban and wild fires.

 

TEAMS WITHIN E.M.A.K. – D.M.S.U.

  • Scuba (under water) Rescue Team
  • Mountaineering Search & Rescue Team
  • Dog Search & Rescue Team
  • Chemical, Biological, Radiological & Nuclear Threats and Technological Accidents Team

COLLABORATION WITH OTHER FIRE  SERVICES

In every incident which lies within the jurisdiction of E.M.A.K.  – D.M.S.U.  the other Fire Services participate as well.

EQUIPMENT

  • Rescue vehicle
  • Special caterpillar vehicle with trailer
  • Chemical protection vehicle, collecting and separating chemical and toxic substances
  • Earthquake vehicle
  • Search & Rescue dogs vehicle
  • Scuba vehicle

MEDIUM URBAN SEARCH & RESCUE MODULES (MUSAR)

Greece has two Modules within the European Mechanism of Civil Protection, GR – Musar  1 (1st E.M.A.K.  – D.M.S.U.) and GR – Musar 2 (2nd E.M.A.K. – D.M.S.U.), which are direct intervention units of constant readiness with a worldwide deployment radius. Their mission is to search and rescue trapped victims in debris and provides first aid until their treatment.

Official Hellenic Fire Service Patch
 

Translated by Maria Kox Lee for Fire.gr
Photos: Hellenic Fire Museum

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