Russian BU-200 crew member: I flew over Varibobi on August 6 and saw fire from above approaching my home in Frakomakedones. Now my neighborhood is a lunar landscape with the smell of ash.
Panayotis Kapetanis, member of the crew of the BE-200 (Beriev) aircraft, coordinator of the Greek fire service, reports:
“The seaplane pilot deals with all the elements of nature: water, earth, fire, air. This summer I have been to all the big fires in Greece. I am a retired Air Force coordinator with 19 years of experience in Canards and 9 years in Pezetel aircraft I have flown a total of 5000 hours in my career and this year I am participating as an air coordinator.
There are three people on my team who are involved in air traffic coordination. They are all seasoned professionals, all retired former members of the Greek Air Force and all of us have flown the Canards. We are friends, brothers, the spirit of camaraderie is here. The rest of the team is eighteen Russians who make up the technical and flight personnel. According to the manufacturer, routine maintenance should be performed approximately every 50 hours. These works last from one and a half to 3 days. This was last done a few days ago.
The Be-200 (Beriev) has increased capabilities compared to other competing aircraft. It flies at twice the speed, carries twice the water load and can stay in the fire zone longer. The flexibility combined with the higher engine power makes it ideal for terrain.
Fatigue builds up. You start at home at 4.30 am and can return at 12 pm.
It is a difficult, tiring and dangerous profession. Shocks at sea, shaking. This plane draws water from the sea at a speed of 180 kilometers per hour. Most seaplane pilots have lower back problems when fighting fires.
How many times Beriev collects water depends on how close the sea is to the fire. For example, during a fire on Samos, in one flight, he collected water 39-42 times, and in other fires – 10-12. It depends on the distance to the water intake point. For 48 days in the country, the plane flew about 180 hours, making 630 water discharges. It carries up to 12 tons of water and its efficiency depends on the height of the discharge. The higher you drop the water, the less effective it is. For example, if the wind is 8-9 on the Beaufort scale, you can see the water being carried away by the wind and evaporating without extinguishing the fire.
Out of sight
The fires began unexpectedly and violently. You take any fire as long as you do not understand that it is in a state of recession as seriously as possible, with the objective goal of stopping it.
In Evia, due to extreme conditions – very high temperatures and low humidity – the crumbs of water that we poured on it turned out to be ineffective. We poured water on the fire, but the fire did not go out. The fire, which should have disappeared from one discharge, required 200 tons of water and continued to smoke. We were dealing with forces of nature that we could not cope with in principle, and in this state you feel completely insignificant. We flew daily for 9 hours, each from my team. In the early days, due to the lack of wind in the area, the smoke went down, due to which we could not see almost anything below.
In Varibobi again the wind is not as predicted and my house is badly damaged. I flew that day. It was August 6th and I saw that the fire was very close to where my home is, in Fracomakedoni. After landing with the last ray of light, I grabbed my bike, pulled out of the airport, and drove home. It was not yet burning, but the fire was close, about 500 meters away. The front of the fire was too large, the wind changed many times. He turned and began to blow from the direction of the mountains, and a few minutes later a fire burned down my house.
I left the house two minutes before the fire came close. And when the front of fire was at a distance of 10 meters from the house, I left. I couldn’t do anything: I didn’t have a generator, I didn’t have water tanks, I didn’t have a fire hydrant. My family was already in Oropos, because because of this whole fire, I could not take care of them. I am married with three children: fourteen, twelve and eleven years old. I have 8 cats, one has burns and we are still trying to save her.
Russian seaplane Beriev-200, extinguishing a fire in Athens
Posted by Russian Athens – Russian Athens on Tuesday, August 3, 2021 “My house burned down”
My home is located in a relatively densely populated area. Most of the houses around have suffered less damage. The reason for my problems was a pine tree that grew behind the house, which I did not want to cut because I liked it. It was she who caused the greatest damage. The tree burned out first. Because of it, the house was badly damaged, the water supply and electrical wiring, part of the roof, doors and windows, the heating system, and the boiler room burned out. Nothing was damaged inside, but at the moment the building is uninhabitable.
Although I thought that my house was completely burnt down, I found the strength and went with a fire engine. I went to her driver and told him, “Please, let’s go put out a friend’s house,” because I saw a fire approaching a friend’s house in Fracomakedones.
I have always wanted to be involved in fighting forest fires because I love nature. Now my neighborhood is a lunar landscape with the smell of ash. You are losing your paradise. Personally, I find it difficult to look at this, imagining how everything was before.
Even though I saw a fire going into my house and that it burns, I did not give it my highest priority. I continued to do my job, saving other homes for people who had the same needs as me. All real estate was the same, in the areas that I was assigned, I did my job. We fulfill requests, no matter how emotional they may be.