Letter from Athens: Letting Greece Burn Lucrative Practice, Even if it Kills People

FILE - A firefighter puts his hand to his face during a forest fire near Kapandriti north of Athens, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017. A large wildfire north of Athens is threatening homes as it sweeps through pine forest for a third day.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

The fires that tore across Greece in the summer of 2017 were obviously, as the ruling Looney Left SYRIZA believes, a conspiracy to discredit them – not really possible given how far they have fallen in anti-popularity polls after reneging on anti-austerity promises.

That cockamamie claim isn’t the despicable part. That belongs to Prime Minister Alexis “The Great Reneger” Tsipras who said the horror of the 2007 infernos that killed 84 people were the fault of his now major rival, the New Democracy Conservatives who were in power at the time.

Just when you thought he couldn’t go any lower. Shameless. “I didn’t kill anybody but you did, yanna nanna nannna na!” That’s the answer a Prime Minister gives?

Tsipras was still in short pants then, an obscure figure in a more obscure party until a New Democracy gaffe – putting up one of its own to be Greek President – led to early elections and SYRIZA’s rise.

As dozens of fires raged across Greece, what used to be a kind of annual tradition so that developers could build on burned-out land and get rich while stepping over the charred bones and ashes of families and other victims, Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis and other officials said it was a conspiracy of fire against SYRIZA as it tumbled in the polls.

“We had 15 fronts at the same time on Zakynthos. If this is not an organized plan of arson, then what is?” he told Kathimerini.

What is an organized plan of arson is what people who coveted forest land have been allowed to do with impunity for years because there’s money to be made.

Fires were set to get around a law prohibiting building on forest land: unless it’s burned and there’s no law yet prohibiting that, encouraging the arson-for-profit schemes.

It goes hand-in-hand with the notorious and condoned practice of letting people unlawfully build homes on state land and in parks and forests and pretty much anywhere they want, with the government then legalizing it later if a fine is paid, which reportedly has allowed nearly a million unlawful structures to now be legal.

The conservation group WWF Hellas and the National Agricultural Research Foundation tracked fires between 1983-2008 and concluded there was an average of 1,465 a year, Kathimerini reported, with the loss of 1.235 million acres a year.

There’s little doubt many fires, this year and in 2007, were arson as investigators found evidence, including gas canisters next to lenses to intensify the sun’s heat.

But Kontonis said it went beyond arson to gain land for buildings and that that the multiple fronts on the island of Zakynthos were “planned” to create social disarray, while Greece’s Fire Service said there were “well-founded suspicions of foul play”.

You can dismiss Kontonis, a Commie lover unless you count Stalin as he apparently is one of those far Leftists in SYRIZA who still adore the Communist days but not one of its chief heroes. Kontonis wouldn’t even go to a European Union conference on Communist crimes, which, if catalogued properly, would have been a three-month affair at least.

Not wanting to get soot on his suit – the same way he didn’t want to get it wet when he visited the island of Lesbos and saw refugees struggling for their lives offshore in rubber dinghies without pulling over to see if they needed help – Tsipras stayed on holiday and waited until this year’s fires were out before surveying the scene. At least he didn’t have to worry about ruining a tie from the smoke smell.

As firefighters were on standby after struggling to put out dozens of blazes – many suspected to be arson, a popular tool for those who then want to build on burned-out land – Tsipras said Greece had “avoided the worst,” which those living or vacationing near the waterfront and wooded area of Kalamos which burned down might dispute.

Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos belittled criticism of Tsipras for not going to the fire scenes until after they had been put out, saying the Premier had been in constant contact with Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Toskas.

The phone conversation must have gone something like this:

TSIPRAS: “Can you describe the fires to me?”
TOSKAS: “Not really sure as I’m not there either but I heard they’re big and hot.”

TSIPRAS: “Okay, keep me posted. I’m going to lunch.”

Here’s what they forgot and really don’t care to think about or hear about if it interferes with going swimming or creating conspiracy theories to downplay their ignorance: people died in horrible ways because no government has really given the Fire Services the staff and equipment they need, preferring to use the money, as Tsipras has, to hire unqualified hack cronie yes-men friends as Special Advisers, and for personal and party gain.

You can spread the blame around as easy as spilling gasoline in a forest and having signs ready saying: Coming Here Next Year, Luxury Properties.

In 2007, then-Premier and New Democracy leader Costas “The Invisible Man” Karamanlis said the killer fires must have been set. “So many fires breaking out simultaneously in so many parts of the country cannot be a coincidence,” Karamanlis said in a TV address, adding:“The state will do everything it can to find those responsible and punish them.” He didn’t.


  1. Land designated as forest land and un-buildable should remain that way even if there is a fire and all the tree’s burn to the ground. The current law gives landowners an incentive to burn it down first in order to gain building permits. A five year old kid can figure that one out. Unless the law changes which I don’t ever see happening because in order to qualify as a politician in Greece you first need to demonstrate total incompetence, the fires will continue to burn!

  2. Socialist mentality fools you into blaming others for the failure of government policies. Environmental conservation causes forest fires.

  3. There goes Andy boy with his derogatory remarks for Tsipras, with that tired old “Looney left” garbage, which he considers journalism. He just parrots what others say, that all the fires are intentionally set. As if the dry, summer heat has nothing to do with it. As if forest fires don’t start by themselves. As if there is actual building going on, after the fires, so we can blame it on the builders. If Dabilis had any journalistic bone in him, he would have done some research and tell us which burnt areas have been built. From what i have heard, the Parnitha forest, that burnt the mountain black ten years ago, is back being green again. What about the tragic fires in Ilia, that killed more than 60 people a decade ago? The area is green again. Greece is not the only country suffering from forest fires. What about Australia, that he admired so much on his last visit there. What about Canada, that’s usually cold and wet? What about our Western states. How about Portugal, this year, that had a number of deaths from fires. Andy boy, let me give you some advice. If you have a small amount of decency, do some actual reporting, by investigating, instead of giving us hearsay. Let us know which fires you suspect were set, who did it and file charges against him. Let us know which areas that were burnt were built on and who built on them. But, that’s too much for you. You’re rather just insinuate, instead of report facts. When are you going to join Trump?

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