Fighting Fires in Greece with the S-64E

AirMed&Rescue spoke to Gary Harman, Greece Country Manager for Erickson Inc., about why the S64 has made, and will continue to make, such a difference to the country’s aerial firefighting efforts

January 4, 2023

Greece has seen many deadly wildfires over the last 20 years; how are the Greek authorities coping with what has already proven to be a very challenging summer season of extreme heat and wildfires?

Greece has indeed faced a few deadly fires over the years. On 23 July 2018, the small resort town of Mati had the second-deadliest fire globally in the last decade. On this day, 102 people perished in the horrific fire. Two hundred and fifty people were injured with approximately 2,500 homes destroyed. Greece is a well-organized and professional firefighting country. With excellent coordination and organization within the Hellenic Fire Department (HFD), most fires are extinguished quickly and efficiently.

What solution has Erickson offered in tackling the height of the Greek wildfire season running May to October?

Erickson has increased its available fleet of S64 helicopters to assist with the wildfire situation in Greece. Our reliability rate historically over the 22 years we have operated in the country has been over 90 percent, ensuring our customer has a reliable initial attack firefighting platform. For the 2022 fire season, Erickson committed nine S64E aircraft to Greece.

What makes the Air Crane the best choice for aerial firefighting in the unique topography of Greece?

The S64 is a diverse platform in the sense it is utilized in Greece for urban interface fires as well as forest fires. The dual fresh water and sea snorkel capability allow significant advantages for the machine to operate in most environments. Having the capability of selecting a drop capacity specific to the fire enables us to react to urban structure and house fires effectively without creating additional damage to the structure.

On forest fires, the crane is adaptable to work in steep gullies and valleys that aircraft types are not suitable for, whilst at the same time being incredibly efficient in extinguishing fast-moving forest and grass fires.

Is the custom solution offered to Greece a success, and what are the key logistical considerations when offering this solution to other countries?

The S64 is the preferred heavy lift type one helicopter for many reasons. The dual capability of fresh water pond snorkeling and salt water sea snorkeling options lend this aircraft to all fire situations. With a 2,600-gallon water tank capacity, there is no other standard category aircraft available on the market that can be compared to the S64. The ability to fly retardant and foam (integrated foam tank) are additional advantages to our customer.

Erickson is well versed in reacting quickly to move aircraft and support equipment around the world. All aircraft have a maintenance pod (container) assigned to them, which are fully equipped with tooling and parts that make our ability to pick up and move seamlessly. This methodology is why we have phenomenal reliability and minimal down time due to the parts that are on-site.

The dual capability of fresh water pond snorkeling and salt water sea snorkeling options lend the S-64 to all fire situations