Photos credit: George Xigos & Giorgos Xanthinakis
Today, in the presence of the President of the Hellenic Republic and the Prime Minister, the new 3.83-hectare Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Hellenic Fire Corps Training Center was inaugurated at the site of the former US military base in Nea Makri, Attica.
The event presented the new Training Center premises, which include 20 buildings with administrative areas and living quarters, classrooms and practice rooms, as well as outdoor training structures. These new outdoor structures include a training course for urban search and rescue, a burn building for live fire training with live fire training props; a climbing wall that resembles a building façade, and more.
Watch the video from the event
Take a video tour of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Hellenic Fire Corps Training Center.
The grant for the creation of the Training Center is part of SNF’s longstanding support to the Hellenic Fire Corps from 1996 through today, amounting to €41 million in grants for construction projects, equipment, and educational programs.
Over the past 27 years, SNF has supported the Hellenic Fire Corps with grants for the procurement of 15 fire trucks and a Super Puma helicopter that have been used repeatedly during the devastating wildfires that have ravaged the country in recent years. At the same time, the Super Puma helicopter is used in air ambulances services to transport rescuers and medical evacuees from remote areas of the country. SNF has sought to provide the members of the Hellenic Fire Corps with personal protective equipment to ensure that they have the best possible protection in emergency situations. SNF has also supported the construction of a training center for the 1st Special Disaster Response Units (EMAK).
Recent forest fires in areas of Greece that traditional firefighting vehicles can’t reach have highlighted the need for aerial intervention by specialized teams that can get to remote and otherwise inaccessible areas. In this context, and with SNF support, members of the Special Forestry Operations Units recently traveled to Spain to attend a helicopter forest-fire-fighting training program. There they gained experience in firefighting strategies and tactics, boarding and disembarking safely from a hovering helicopter, and more. In addition, Fire Corps instructors participated in a program for the management of hazardous materials, traffic collisions, and fire behavior in enclosed spaces at the Fire Service College in Moreton-in-Marsh, UK, training the rest of the Corps upon their return. For a number of years in the past, SNF also supported a training program on forest fires with the British Columbia Wildfire Service in Canada, with participants training their colleagues in Greece upon returning.
During the inauguration event, the Chief of the Hellenic Fire Corps, Lieutenant General George Pournaras, said, "The new Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Hellenic Fire Corps Training Center inaugurated today in Nea Makri has arrived to give substance to a yearslong dream—to the expectations of every firefighter—by providing modern, comprehensive, and complete training based on the latest technologies and scientific data. The training provided will equip them with the tools necessary to make sure they are ready to face the challenges of the moment in carrying out their mission. This center, with its modern training tools and state-of-the-art equipment, will cover all the training needs of the Fire Corps personnel. In this effort, a valuable contribution is the large grant from SNF, which has been supporting the Fire Corps for many years. We owe a big thank you to the Co-President and the members of the Board of Directors of the Foundation, but also to all those who contributed to making the dream come true. We have to give all the support necessary to have a well-trained staff with knowledge and appropriate tools to successfully carry out the important work that the Greek state has entrusted to us. With the creation of the modern training center, the foundations have been laid. Let us all build on them."
SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos said, "On behalf of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), I would like to express our joy and pride in being here today. We would like to thank the Fire Corps first and foremost for the trust in us they have shown in working together and for the opportunity they have given us to contribute to such an important project. The times we live in are particularly difficult for everyone, with natural and man-made disasters taking place with increased frequency around the world and in Greece. Therefore, the demands placed on the Fire Corps are also increasing, since its mission is primarily to protect our lives, our wildlands, and everyone's property. We as members of the public unfortunately mostly take it for granted that the Fire Corps will always be there to face any danger. And we often forget that firefighters are people too, with needs like the rest of us. They need equipment and training, but above all they require support in order to be able to perform their difficult work. In order to have a fire corps that is capable and prepared, we need to provide the necessary tools and the best possible training for its personnel. A modern training center like the one we are in today is the bedrock the Fire Corps as an institution and especially its people stand on so that they can offer their critical services to society. In closing, I would like to extend a big thank you, on behalf of the Foundation, to the people of the Fire Corps, to all firefighters, for what they offer, with confidence, courage, and self-denial, to the Fire Corps and, consequently, to society in general."
Watch the remarks
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Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, "First of all, allow me, on behalf of the Greek Government, to once again warmly thank the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and Andreas Dracopoulos personally for another important grant to the Greek state. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation has supported the Fire Corps over the years. However, following the devastating fire in Mati, the Foundation decided to make an important additional grant to support the Fire Corps. And indeed, whenever we think about the best way to use such donations, our minds usually go to infrastructure: to planes, to vehicles, to technological systems. We rarely think of people. Because of course firefighters are dedicated and committed to protecting human life, protecting property and the natural environment. But we who see things from the outside forget how difficult your job is. And that is why I think it is so important that a large part of this additional donation of €25 million has been directed precisely to the construction of a state-of-the-art training center—as you can see—so that our firefighters can have the best and most professional training in order to carry out the difficult task that we have entrusted to them. Mr. Dracopoulos, again, on behalf of the Greek state, a big thank you."
The President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, said, "I am pleased to be here today, among the members of the Fire Corps who perform the duty of civil protection with dedication and professionalism. The excellent Fire Corps Training Center, which was implemented with the generous assistance of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and which we are inaugurating, will provide them with modern tools to face the serious challenges associated with their mission. By emphasizing experiential training methods, based on both Greek operational needs and internationally applied practices in firefighting and rescue, the Center will contribute to a substantial upgrade of civil protection in our country and will be the incubator of a new generation of fully trained and educated firefighters. Courage has never been lacking among Greek firefighters. By creating modern infrastructure and giving them the right equipment, we are strengthening them in their invaluable mission for which we are all grateful. Congratulations to all those who have made this vision a reality, and good luck in the great work of our Fire Corps."