U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Director of Fire and Aviation Management Tom Harbour visited Athens as part of a review of the fire-fighting training and collaboration with the senior leadership of the Hellenic Fire Service.
During his visit, Chief Harbour joined U.S. Ambassador David D. Pearce and Hellenic Fire Service Chief Lieutenant General Vasilios Papageorgiou in a walking tour of the still-recovering forest fire zone in the Parnitha-Penteli mountain area, destroyed in the 2007 wildfires. Chief Harbour and the Ambassador also visited the HFS’s national operations center in Athens where they were briefed on the emergency management and operational planning.
In the aftermath of Greece’s devastating 2007 fires, the U.S. Forest Service launched a Cooperative Agreement with Greece to address future emergencies and enhance capacity in wildfire suppression, prevention, and rehabilitation.
Through the agreement, the United States provided funds to address immediate short-term needs, purchase emergency relief supplies, firefighting equipment, and invest in long-term capacity building and training programs, totaling over $2.2 million. Through the agreement, the USFS team and Hellenic Fire Brigade specialists have held 12 trainings which bring Greek firefighters and forestry experts to the United States and U.S. Forest Service specialists to Greece.
In his two-day visit to Athens June 24-25, Chief Harbour reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to working with the Greek fire authorities to prevent and combat wildfires and reviewed the history of strong bilateral cooperation in the field of fire management.
Chief Harbour and Chief Papageorgiou discussed the progress that has been made in Greece in capacity-building and fire management fundamentals. Ambassador Pearce affirmed that the Embassy would continue the robust dialogue between HFS and USFS as forest fire preparedness and management are shared interests of both countries.