Fire helmet in the lab

Worcester Polytechnic Institute, with the Coordinating Assistance of the American Farm School, to Help Greece Respond to the Threat of Wildfires

University and industry experts to train firefighters and first responders.
Media Contact
April 16, 2019

In the wake of last summer’s deadly and devastating wildfires in Greece, a team of international fire protection engineers are working together to better address these critical public safety challenges. Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Worcester, Mass., in the U.S.with the coordinating assistance of the American Farm School in Thessaloniki, Greece, are offering an intensive weeklong fire protection safety training course to fire professionals in Greece.

From April 15 to 19, 25 Greek firefighters, first responders, and fire managers are studying extreme fire behavior, wildland urban interface fire dynamics and impact, and firefighter entrapment. The course will take place at the Hellenic Fire Academy in Kifissia, Greece, with hands-on field training occurring in select locations.

Internationally renowned fire scientist Albert Simeoni, who heads fire protection engineering studies at WPI, organized the courses.  Simeoni will be joined by other international and Greek fire experts, including Alexander Maranghides, National Institute of Standards and Technology, USA; Domingos Viegas, University of Coimbra, Portugal; Gavriil Xanthopoulos, Institute of Mediterranean Forest Ecosystems, Greece; and Miltiadis Athanasiou, Wildfire Management Consulting and Training, Athens, Greece.

“We need to think about what we can all do to prepare for the next fire season and beyond,” said Simeoni. “There is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but research and experience can help provide first responders with an understanding of what happened in a fire—how it spread in a particular area, for example—to  improve tactics for approaching future fires.”

The objective of the April 15-19 course is to “train the trainers.”as the expertise and skills the initial group of 25 students will gain would then be shared with other first responders and members of the Greek fire community through subsequent training courses. The initial training course is being offered free of charge through the leadership and fundraising provided by WPI alumnus Nick Kyriakos ’75 in conjuction with the Center for Global Public Safety.

“Although disaster relief has been plentiful for Greece, WPI’s interest in establishing education, training and research programs in fire and public safety for the country, motivated me to volunteer and seek support from our Greek American and Philhellene community,” said Kyriakos.  “Those groups have  repeatedly responded and provided relief at times of natural and man-made disasters, including the economic crises that has overwhelmed Greece.”

In addition to offering the short courses in firefighter training, WPI with the coordinating assistance of the American Farm School are working to establish additional training programs in Greece for others involved in fire management and firefighting, such as building inspectors, foresters, city planners, and other personnel.

About Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Worcester Polytechnic Institute, a purpose-driven community of educators and researchers, has been the global leader in project-based learning for 50 years. An impact maker for higher education and the world, WPI prepares confident, competent problem solvers with a project-based curriculum that immerses students in authentic, real-world experiences.