US Ambassador Praises IOCC’s Assistance to Peloponnese Fire Department through Grant from Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

U.S. Ambassador to Greece Daniel Speckhard (right) at a ceremony marking the delivery of 255 fire shelters that provide increased protection for fire fighters. Three Peloponnese fire fighters lost their lives last year due to entrapment situations. IOCC provided the fire shelters through a grant by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. (photo credit: D. Katsivelaki/IOCC Greece)

Baltimore, MD (December 4, 2008) — An official ceremony to celebrate the delivery of fire shelters, provided by International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) through a $118,000 grant by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, to the Pyrgos, Greece fire department on November 18 brought with it a somber touch as three fire fighters that were killed during the massive 2007 wildfires were remembered. “If our firemen had fire shelters last year they might have been alive today,” said Theodoros Kotsonis, the Commander of the Fire Department of Pyrgos.

U.S. Ambassador Daniel Speckhard, members of the Greek Parliament, the Prefect of Ileia, municipal authorities, local clergy, family of the fallen fire fighters and IOCC staff were on hand for the ceremony. The fire shelters will provide increased protection from radiant and convective heat and are used in wild land entrapment situations, such as those that claimed the lives of the three fire fighters.

IOCC has been developing new and innovative ways of assisting the Peloponnese to combat wildfires during its dry, hot summers. “[IOCC] went to the communities and talked to them about their needs. So we were very pleased that an American organization and private citizens reached out to help their Greek friends,” said Speckhard of IOCC’s overall aid program to Greece’s devastated regions.

IOCC completed its final shipment of nearly 60 metric tons of forage seed to Peloponnese farmers. The forage seed, suitable for the region’s dry hot climate, will help restore the grazing lands that were devastated by last summer’s wildfires. The delivery of forage seed will complete the activities of the $1.6 million grant given by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America earlier in the year. The forage seed, animal feed, and this latest assistance of fire shelters, are part of IOCC’s comprehensive $2 million package of aid to the Peloponnese.

IOCC, founded in 1992 as the official humanitarian aid agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), has implemented over $275 million in relief and development programs in 33 countries around the world.