Croatian mountain rescue service helps tackle disastrous fires

11 August 2017

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Croatia - The Croatian emergency services are known for their inefficiency but the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service (HGSS) is a major exception. The HGSS helped fire fighters extinguish fires and evacuate residents from vulnerable areas on 24 July 2017. Although fire fighting is not their primary activity, nor were they at first equipped for fighting fires, without the help of the help of the HGSS some locations would not have been saved, according to Vinko Primzić, head of the rescue service. “The HGSS is an operational force of the civil protection system and from the first moment was at the disposal of the fire fighting command,” Primzić said. “At first our help was not needed but when the fires approached a forest in Mosor where the hikers’ lodge is located, we sent 20 members to try to defend it. We have also gathered another 80 rescuers and sent them to ˇrnovnica to be put at the disposal of the fire brigade. We know how to work in difficult conditions so in this situation our good organisation has proven useful.”

Teams were formed gradually and were in parallel equipped with fire fighting equipment they do not normally have. Dome of the equipment was taken from a warehouse of the State Protection and Rescue Service, while part was borrowed from the Marjan Forrest Park and other municipal services in the county, for example, from Sinj, which was then in danger.

At the same time, the HGSS was available to help the emergency medical service, with rescue teams in situations where they could not access individual sites, especially at Privor, where they pulled people out of vulnerable houses and carried out evacuations.

“Our organisation of 100 people and 15 vehicles, with a special communication system and our command vehicle from which we coordinated the work of our teams in the field, all that gave a significant contribution in this difficult situation,” said Primzić. “And we could have brought together another few hundred more members from all over Croatia. We have not been part of the fire fighting plans until now but I am confident that will change. Of course, we do not want to do the job of fire fighters but we can be a good support, just like they help us in our operations and searches.”