‘Making a difference’: Day in the life of a NZ man’s firefighting efforts in Greece

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Fixed-wing agricultural pilot from New Zealand, Simon Pemberton, has opened up about what it’s like fighting wildfires during Greece’s summer season.

In an interview with stuff.co.nz, Simon detailed how he operates a fleet of aircraft specialising in aerial firefighting at a Hellenic Airforce base off Almiros.

“We are basically on standby from daylight to dark, with a contractual requirement to be airborne within 20 minutes of a call,” Simon told the website, adding that the crew sits within 20 metres of the planes in air conditioned huts.

Simon Pemberton.

“When fire conditions are considered serious enough, we are sent on a patrol to actively look for fire or be in the vicinity if one is reported.”

Simon is in Greece on a NATO contract as part of the organisation’s Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA). The NSPA has deployed 40 aircraft to assist Greece with their wildfires in 2022.

One wildfire Simon recalled vividly was on the Greek island of Lesvos this year, which burned more than 3000 hectares and destroyed several buildings and houses.

A firefighter tries to extinguishes a forest fire near the beach resort of Vatera, on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos, Greece, Saturday, July 23, 2022. Photo: AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis.

The pilot said he was “pretty stoked” when his crew didn’t allow any of the little churches dotted across the island’s hills to burn.

“That definitely makes you feel you are making a difference as you fly past a little white church with a terracotta roof, and it’s burnt to within five metres and survived,” Simon said.

And what of the Greek people?

Simon said: “they are amazing, huge fans of New Zealand and Australian people” due to the Anzac efforts during World War II amongst other things.

READ MORE: ‘We have support from local communities’: Australian crews continue to fight wildfires in Greece.

Source: stuff.co.nz.

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