Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Get ready for fire season in Greece

Fire extinguisherIt’s important to understand how fires start, what we can do to prepare ourselves, protect our homes and help neighbors if and when that time comes. Even if you only do a few simple things or heighten your awareness — or that of a neighbor and your family — it’s better than nothing.

How fires start

* Improperly discarded cigarettes — Flicked from a car window or even at street level, making contact with dry brush/grass, paper or garbage (cigarettes account for 1 in 4 fires, but is higher in GR due to the high smoking rate)
* Cooking — Outside ovens, BBQ grills and cooking fires (especially in summer), grease fires, unattended pots/pans
* Fuel — Gasoline, kerosene, butane, paint thinner, individual gas flames used to make Greek coffee in a briki
* Improperly burned garbage
* Electrical — Faulty wiring, electrical systems, frayed electrical cords of appliances (hair dryers, toasters, iron, coffee maker)
* Sparks — Flint and steel, muffler or tailpipe of a car dragging on the ground
* Lens-based — Magnifying glass, eyeglasses, mirrors
* Lightning
* Camping — Unattended campfires or inexperienced campers attempting to start them
* Space heaters too close to drapery, bedding and other flammable material
* Heating systems – Fireplaces, wood stoves
* Fireworks — Usually irresponsibly discharged (“Athens 2004 chief starts forest fire“)
* Arson

How to use a fire extinguisher

Remember P.A.S.S. , which stands for:

1. Pull pin and hold unit upright
2. Aim nozzle at the base of the fire
3. Squeeze the trigger
4. Sweep the base of the fire until it’s out

Basic Fire Safety

Stop, Drop and Roll — That’s what you or anyone should do if you/they catch fire; running only fans a flame

Have two ways out — A door, a window, a fire escape, etc.; something to think about if you have a window or door that is currently broken

Drop to the ground and crawl to safety — Keep under the smoke to avoid inhaling it

Feel a closed door for heat before opening it — If it’s hot, use your second exit

Always use the stairs if on a higher floor — Elevators can stop working and trap you inside

Don’t use water on an electrical fire — One word: Electrocution

Planning Ahead

Most people I know in Greece do not schedule anything in advance. But planning for the future is essential in keeping your home safe as residents cannot depend on firefighting personnel or the Greek government to protect and provide in a time of great need.

* Fire escape route (from your home, hotel or place of work) — You literally have 2 minutes or less to safely get out
* A meeting place
* Smoke alarms and batteries (tested monthly)
* Home/fire insurance
* File with serial numbers, important documents, photos and mementos you can’t live without or replace in a fireproof pouch/envelope

If you live or have a second home in a forested area, see “Forest home fire safety.”

Fire safety kit

Many of these items should be kept in a separate shed or other storage place in close proximity to the home.

Fire extinguisher(s) — inside and outside
Blanket — inside and outside
Water pump
Fire escape ladder
Hose (long enough to reach around the house, and positioned strategically)
First aid kit
Radio to keep up on latest news, check the batteries
Cell phone charger
Bottled water
Canned food with pop-tops or include a can opener

Everyone who owns or rents a car in Greece is required by law to have a fire extinguisher in the trunk, among other things.

How to make a first aid kit

A first aid kit at work or at home is an invaluable resource you create once, place in a strategic spot and then check in a year or refill as necessary. It’s easy and inexpensive.

One can be bought nearly ready-made from the pharmacy or drugstore, then supplemented with items listed below if not already inside; I recommend one with a handle. Or a kit can be started from scratch using a hard plastic/metal lunchbox.

Sterile dressings — Different size gauze pads and/or a roll, band-aids (flexible and waterproof)
Adhesive tape — Small roll, to secure dressings
Cleansing agents — Small bar of soap; antiseptic and alcohol in small bottles or towelettes; antibacterial hand solution
Antibiotic ointment — Small tube
Burn ointment — Small tube
Eye wash solution — Small bottle to flush ash or debris
Contact lens solution — Small bottle and lens case (if you wear them)
Thermometer in a plastic case
Instant ice packs (punch and go)
Prescription medicines and medical supplies, i.e. diabetic or blood pressure monitoring equipment
Small pair of scissors
Lip balm
Over the counter remedies — i.e. Aspirin, antacid (roll of Tums), laxative, anti-diarrhea (Imodium) in small bottles or individual packets
ACE bandage – For knee, ankle, elbow or shoulder injury (“How to use an ACE bandage“)
Latex or sterile cotton gloves (stored in a ziploc bag)
Cotton pads (stored in a ziploc bag)


First Aid Kit” – Ready America
Stopping fires before they start” – Family Education
Sparky’s Fire Safety Quiz” — State Fire Marshal
Πυροσβεστικό Σώμα Ελλάδος – Fire Brigade of Greece

Photo from


  Cheryl wrote @ July 8th, 2008 at 17:37

Very informative Kat. I really have to get my first aid kit together. This post is a good reminder….thanks!

  KT wrote @ July 10th, 2008 at 22:14

Fires? Earthquakes??

What would be good is if the citizens knew basic skills to save each other, everyone just seems to walk out of the house and panic. Why dosent Greek TV have specials and what to do in case of an earthquake — I didnt see anything. ?? Before I left we had a big earthquake in my area of 6.5 or 6.6 can’t remember, and my cousin walked out of the house without his child, and i said to him “what about your kid” and he told me to go get it..can you believe that?? And when Greece was burning last summer no one seemed to care, all of them were sitting in the cafeterias..

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