“The Fire Department officers who were there they asked for strength and were indignant. Forces were waiting that never came. The forces were zero. We could see the desperation in each other’s eyes. The lack of forces was the problem” Manolis Tsaliagos, an employee of the Municipality of Rafina-Pikermi in the Department of Civil Protection, testified at the trial for the tragedy in Mati.

The witness, who expressed some reservations about whether an evacuation order would be feasible and effective, described the unequal battle that both the municipal water tankers and the few fire engines had to fight with a “running” and growing fire.

As Mr. Tsaliagos testified, what was decisive for the fatal development was the complete lack of aerial means at the critical hours.

Mr. Tsaliagos testified that he was the first to be at the scene where the fatal fire broke out in Dau Pentelis and, as he pointed out, the first image he had was that the fire had momentum and would not be dealt with on that day; “I was in the operations center at the ‘Fortress’ location. I detected smoke and radioed 199. I updated 16:39 to 16:40. I spoke to the Center but did not receive a response. I started with the vehicle and alerted the other vehicles, Rafina 1 and Rafina 3 – Rafina 2 was in the operations center – and water tankers to go to the site” testified the witness, pointing out that the means that existed at that time were not able to deal with the situation.

Chairman: At 17:30 what were the conditions?

Witnesses: It was very windy.

Chairman: In terms of smoke?

Witness: There was a lot of smoke and a lot of heat.

Chairman: The expert also testified that if people had been notified before 17:30 maybe some would have been saved.

Witness: There was no notification. They are not easy to remove. Some didn’t want to leave. Surely if they had been notified and the removal had begun things would have been better. They were trying to do something…. I can’t answer if there was a suggestion to remove if that would be better. Maybe it was better but I’m not one hundred percent sure.

Chairman: Would you call the fire ordinary?

Witness: Not usual in terms of temperature and wind intensity.

Chairman: You are on fire, what do you think didn’t happen?

Witness: We are few cars. And on the other hand, if there had been a fire in the reforestation, the fire would not have progressed and would not have reached Kokkino Limanaki and Mati. I believe that five and a half past six, rather than being in the reforested areas, the fire could have been contained. The “walking” of the fire was terrifying.

As the witness testified, realizing the situation he had requested from the first moment aerial means without being in his jurisdiction. “I said it over the radio in case an officer heard it and repeated it. If the aerials had flown in the first quarter or quarter, things would have been better easy I think. I saw an aerial around 17:20. I said to myself “aircraft came, we were saved”. But he made a circle and left.”

Answering questions from advocates from the side of the victims, Mr. Tsaliagos emphasized that the forces operating were minimal. “Five cars to erase this front is not possible. In the first stage, we are more than those who were in the Fire Department. From there I don’t know what happened. The officers there were calling for reinforcements and were indignant. Forces were waiting that never came. The forces were zero. The officers pleaded like a child saying “give me the toy”. So they also begged for strength. We could see the desperation in each other’s eyes. The lack of forces was the problem.”

The witness also testified about the people he rescued who were in complete confusion trying to escape the flames: “I saw a man who had started the car, had lowered the fuse and was frozen in the burning car. We had to break into the mosque to get him. To save an Irish woman and put her in the car I hung myself on the mirror” he said.