In July 2018, 102 people lost their lives in a wildfire in the Greek coastal town of Mati. Many houses and businesses were also destroyed.
Scientists described it as an 'explosive', unprecedented fire. It was here in Mati that we met and spoke to Vaso Kotroni for Episode 5 of Smart Regions. She is Research Director at the National Observatory of Athens and Project Manager of DISARM, a European crossborder system designed to give better advance warning and information about wildfires.
She believes the project is a major and essential step forward:
"DISARM is a cross-border co‐operation project and it is a part of Interreg Balkan Mediterranean. It has been funded by the European Union and involves partners from Greece, Bulgaria and Cyprus.
"The goal of the programme is to create a holistic approach to the issue of forest fires in the region of the southeastern Mediterranean."
Vaso says the project represents a major step forward in terms of cross-border co-operation:
"In the context of DISARM, the three countries have learned to work together, with the goal of gaining a common view on the holistic approach to forest fires. We share knowledge, we share experience and we take knowledge one step further."
As soon as an alert is triggered and the National Observatory of Athens receives it, the team processes the data on IRIS; this system, named after the Greek messenger goddess, takes into account the topography of the terrain, the meteorological data and also the type of wood being burnt. IRIS sends an accurate prediction of the fire’s probable course to the rescue team in real time.
But Vaso says enhancements are still ongoing:
"We are already working to improve the IRIS system. We want to include more elements. For example, when we have wind gusts, the fire spreads much faster. This is something we are working on and as soon as this application is ready, it will be a part of DISARM."