Summer Fires on Hydra

About Hydra / Climate, Seasons, Geography

Large-scale, widespread fires are a constant danger on Hydra in the summer months. Most outbreaks start at the rubbish dump and are put out relatively quickly. In the past, however, some have gotten temporarily out of control and large portions of the island have burned.

Fire over Hydra Town in July 2007

Fire over Hydra Town in July 2007

The latest wildfire, on May 24, 2013, probably burned an estimated 2,500 acres of brush, dried grass, and low vegetation. A massive, island-wide fire in 2007, on the other hand, burned about two-thirds of Hydra’s forests, encroaching on Hydra Town itself and reaching all the way to Episkopi and beaches along the southern side of the island. To date a forest or dump fire has never actually reached Hydra Town, though lives have been lost in battling previous blazes.

A costal chaple savedIn the past, when fire has broken out, Hydra and the surrounding municipalities have swooped into action to contain the threat. The island does have one small fire engine but very few drivable roads; hence, fire planes and helicopters from the mainland must race to the scene and literally bomb the affected areas with seawater in an effort to douse the blaze.

Recent Firefighting Measures

Because most fires have started at the garbage dump behind Mandraki Bay, the Demos has searched for solutions to prevent the possibility of further fires originating there. A permanent guard has been posted and a water supply has been installed nearby. In 2013 Hydra purchased and installed an autonomous water pump attached to diesel generators, ensuring that the water tanks will always be full so that dump fires can be extinguished under any circumstances.

Until 2014, Hydra had no firefighting team of its own. The Demos has been working on changing that since 2012. Finally, in February 2014, training began for Hydra’s first permanent island-based firefighting unit. The Demos has also acquired a small pickup-style fire truck and secured permission to create firebreaks in various locations to protect Hydra’s natural and manmade wealth.

Guidelines for Fire Prevention and Management on Hydra

The General Secretariat for Civil Protection has issues the following guidelines for preventing and dealing with forest fires.

To prevent a fire

  • Don’t burn litter or dried grasses and small branches (twigs) during the summer.
  • Don’t burn open-air barbecues in forests or places close to dried grasses or branches during the summer.
  • Avoid open-air works that may cause fire. Do not torch weld, use wheel or other instruments that create sparks.
  • Never throw lit cigarettes in open-air places.
  • Don’t leave rubbish in the forest. There is danger of ignition.
  • Respect the prohibitive signs of access in periods of high danger.

If your house lies inside or near a forest or a forestal area

  • Create a fire break around your house by clearing and removing dried grass, pine-needles, dried leaves, branches etc beyond 10meters of your house.
  • Prune the trees to the height of 3meters, according to their age, and the condition of their branches.
  • Remove all dried branches from the trees and the bushes.
  • Thin the trees in a 5meters distance from your house so that their branches don’t lean on the walls, on the roof or the balconies.
  • Space out around the building the woody vegetation so that the branches of one tree is at least 3 meters apart from another. For greater security and if the circumstances permit it, remove the woody and bushy vegetation around the building in a distance at least of 10meters.
  • Don’t put plastic spouts or plastic sewers of water to the walls of the building.
  • Protect the windows and the glass doors by placing shutters from not inflammable materials.
  • Cover the chimneys and the ventilation pipes with a specific, not inflammable, wire-cable so that the sparks will not penetrate the interior of the building.
  • Don’t store inflammable objects near the house.
  • Don’t put uncovered fuel- tanks near the house.
  • Keep the fire-wood in closed and protected places.
  • Buy the appropriate fire-extinguishers and take care of their maintenance.
  • Be equipped with a water pipe with length proportional to the area you want to protect.
  • A water tank, a non-electric power pump and a water pipe can protect you from fire.

If you see fire

  • Ring up IMMEDIATELY to the Fire Brigade call center (199) and give clear information about the location and the exact point where you are, as well as information about the location and the exact point of the fire.
  • Describe the kind of vegetation that is burning.
  • Specify the direction of fire.
  • Don’t hang up before you give all necessary information.

If fire is approaching your house

  • Remain cool.
  • Remove promptly all the inflammable materials from around the building to closed and sheltered places. Their ignition might contribute to spread the fire in the building.
  • Close all the passages (chimneys, windows, doors etc) to prevent fire-brands to penetrate the building.
  • Shut off all the gas and liquid-fuels supplies inside and outside the building.
  • Immediately roll up sunshades from the balconies and the windows.
  • Open the gate of the garden to facilitate the fire fighting vehicle access.
  • Put a ladder outside the building so that someone is able to climb immediately on the roof. The ladder should be placed at the opposite side of the fire direction.
  • Connect the water pipes with the taps outside the building and spread them so that the perimeter of the building is covered.
  • If visibility is reduced, switch on the interior and exterior lights of the building in order to be more visible through smokes.

If fire is next to your doorstep

  • Don’t give up your place unless your escape is completely secured.
  • The possibility of survival in a building constructed by not inflammable materials is great. On the contrary it is small inside a car that lies in smokes and flames.
  • Enter the house with your whole family and pets.
  • Close all the doors and windows and block up all the cracks with wet clothes.
    Remove the curtains from the windows.
  • Move any furniture into the center of the residence away from windows and exterior doors.
  • Close all the doors in between, to retard fire spreading in the building.
  • Fill up the baths, wash-basins and buckets so that you have spare water.
  • Gather all together in one place
  • Keep a torch and spare batteries at hand in case of electric power failure.
  • If your house is made of wood, seek shelter in a neighbouring building.
  • If advised to evacuate the area follow strictly the instructions and the routes suggested.

As soon as the fire is out

  • Get out of the house and at once put out the remaining small spots.
  • Control for at least 48 hours, in fixed periods of time, the perimeter and the exterior spaces of the building for possible small spots and re-ignitions.