When Greece suffered devastating wildfires, Australian firefighting expertise came to the rescue. This rapid response is now opening partnership opportunities between Australia, Greece and the wider European region. It also showcases Australia’s ability to help combat extreme weather events in Europe – especially during the Northern Hemisphere summer.
Fighting fires in Greece
In 2021, Greece experienced its worst fire season in recent history. This affected approximately 309,000 acres. Australia helped out: helicopters brought to Europe undertook 986 water-bombing operations over 155 flight hours.
In 2022, wildfires struck again. Australian expertise and equipment were once more in demand.
Austrade coordinated a major response operation during March and April 2022. The agency introduced Greece’s General Secretariat for Civil Protection to Australian firefighting companies to bolster national firefighting resources. Austrade also worked directly with the Australian Embassy in Athens.
The result: Australian companies Kennedy Air and Pay’s Air Service won major contracts to provide Greece with firefighting aircraft.
Australia’s counter-seasonal contribution
There is limited demand for Australia’s advanced firefighting resources during the Southern Hemisphere winter. This means Australian firefighting equipment – plus pilots and maintenance crew – are available to help during Northern Hemisphere summers.
Also, Australian firefighters have ideal experience. They regularly work closely with government agencies.
‘It is very hard to get any aircraft out of North America or Canada during the European summer as it clashes with their fire season … so the gap in the market has been filled by Australia,’ says Kennedy Air’s founder, Andrew Kennedy.
Australia shares world-leading firefighting expertise
The milestone partnership between the Greek Government and Australian firefighting companies has created opportunities for further collaboration in firefighting and emergency response.
This includes providing specialist training and maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) for firefighting services. The partnership also enabled Australia to demonstrate its world-leading firefighting expertise.
For almost 70 years, Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial and Research Organisation (CSIRO), has worked with industry on fire prediction, management, behaviour and recover.
Scientific collaboration has helped Australia develop world-leading assets and capabilities. These include fire-tanker protection systems, firefighter training, weather and smoke forecasting, and fire-safe material.
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Published: 20 November 2023