|Almost a year after the finalization of the activities of the REPORT Project, representatives of the Leading Partner and the Regional Fire Department of Smolyan share their experiences and express their hopes.|
The Project "through pREvention to Preserve the natural beauty Of the Rhodope mounTain" ("REPORT") was funded under the first call of the European Territorial Cooperation Programme "Greece-Bulgaria 2007-2013" and implemented successfully by the Project partners Regional Administration Smolyan (BG) and Region of East Macedonia and Thrace (GR). Local fire departments in regions of Smolyan and Xanthi acted as important participants in the Project activities and are now direct stakeholders of the Project outcomes. The joint efforts of the two administrations have produced valuable results – an on-line system for early warning of forest fire, equipped centres for receiving of operative information, modern fire-fighting equipment, and last but not least improved communication between the responsible authorities of the two countries allowing them to cooperate in cases of forest fires, natural and man-provoked disasters.
Now, almost a year after the finalization of the Project activities, representatives of the Leading Partner (Regional Administration Smolyan) and Regional Fire Department – Smolyan share the experience gathered within the Project, their hopes and plans for upgrading of the achieved results:
Mr. Vaklin Topov, Director of Directorate at Regional Administration Smolyan, Project Manager of the REPORT Project
"Main objective of the joint initiative was to preserve the biodiversity and to establish a base for sustainable management of the natural resources in the Cross-Border Region Smolyan-Xanthi. Beside the acquisition of modern fire-fighting equipment, specialized vehicles and a system for early warning, our general goal was to create good and functional cooperation with our colleagues from the Region of East Macedonia and Thrace and also to facilitate the establishment of communication channels and procedures for joint actions between the fire departments in regions of Smolyan and Xanthi. We aimed and succeeded in developing rules for joint management of forest fires, to exchange experience in the field of prevention, to improve the coordination between the institutions responsible for localization, limitation and extinguishing of forest fires. An important aspect of the REPORT Project was information dissemination, as it was crucial to enhance the ecological culture of the local population and the visitors of the region regarding the necessary outdoor behavior and the safety. We have published a Guidebook for the prevention of forest fires; have developed joint plans for management of forces and means in cases of forest fires and disasters in the Cross-Border Region Smolyan-Xanthi. Everybody can visit the Project's site (www.report-project.eu) and read there more about the Project activities, but also read about the forest fires and how to avoid and limit the damages caused by those. In the third place I want to outline that the REPORT Project financed the Regional Administration of Smolyan to build specific administrative capacity. We have a very positive, timely and productive collaboration with the experts from the JTS of the ETCP Greece – Bulgaria 2007-2013, which have supported us throughout the whole process of Project implementation."
Mrs. Stefka Garova, Head of Unit at Regional Administration Smolyan, technical assistant of the REPORT Project
"The Project implementation was a challenge for us, due to the fact that a lot of different stakeholders and institutions had to be involved in the planning and organization of each activity, and also because it was the first Project for our administration that included infrastructure. Together with our Greek partner we have developed the technical specification for the establishment of the system for early warning of forest fires and planned the necessary data and software applications. After the respective public procurement procedures we have chosen qualified subcontractors, which have delivered and installed a network of 15 antennas with meteorological and video equipment to monitor the respective covered forest areas. The antennas are mounted at different places in the Rhodope Mountain, which were identified as suitable to monitor large areas of forest that are hard to access. More than a half of the antennas are located along the Greek-Bulgarian border line, as the zone is known to be prone to forest fires, especially in the hot summers. An on-line system was developed to calculate the risk of fire, using a compound set of meteorological and statistical indicators. Based on those calculations, the system uses four different colors (codes) to indicate the level of fire threat - green, yellow, orange and red. There is a Fire Department Officer working 24/7 at the respective centre for receiving operative information, functioning as a coordination point, and once he spots smoke or fire in the forest, or when the systems indicate higher level of risk (code orange or red), the Officer transfers the information to the firefighters, who drive to the identified spot to check and interfere in case it is needed. A similar network of 5 antennas is installed by our Greek partner allowing us to coordinate the necessary measures or to plan and implement common interventions. All-terrain vehicles were also purchased within the REPORT Project (5 in Bulgaria and 3 in Greece) in order to help the firefighters to access quickly and safely areas with forest fires or any other type of disasters."
Commissar Krasimir Shotarov, Head of Regional Fire Department Smolyan
"The REPORT Project made one important step towards renovation of our firefighting equipment. The network of antennas allows us to constantly monitor the situation and helps us a lot in our work to preserve one of the most valuable assets of the region - the forests and the biodiversity in them. We have had the opportunity to cooperate with colleagues from the fire departments of Xanthi and Drama on the occasion of several fires that occurred during the last years and through that cooperation we realized the importance of coordinated actions. Within the Project framework we have had a joint training, and we hope to extend and deepen that feature of our work in the future. We hope that the regional administrations that implemented the Project and the fire departments will upgrade the Project's outcomes, plan more practical trainings and create coordination procedures and protocols between the cross border bodies, as it is a prerequisite for the success of our mission."