With 56 fires raging around Greece on Aug. 13 – the worst on the big island of Evia north of
Athens where an environmental disaster was being reported – some 800 firefighters and 547
vehicles and airplanes were being used to battle them.
The Civil Protection Authority declared a State of Emergency on Evia where four villages –
Makrymalli, Kontodespoti, Platania and Stavros and a monastery were evacuated as the
ferocious blaze also destroyed one of Greece’s 19 Natura 2000 nature reserves.
Some 500 people fled the fire, some on police buses and others using their own vehicles,
memories still vivid of the July 23, 2018 wildfires that killed 102 people in villages northeast of
Athens, made worse critics said by the then-ruling Radical Left SYRIZA’s chaotic response.
The Evia fire covered a front of about 12 kilometers (7.45 miles) said Kathimerini but despite the
size and threat to people and homes there were no reports of serious damage as firefighter
teams worked around the clock to try to contain it.
More than 220 firefighters battled the blaze along with at least 75 fire engines, including truck-
mounted water tanks, as well as six water-dropping planes, six helicopters, volunteers and
soldiers. It wasn’t reported how the fires started although it had been common for arsonists to
set blazes so that developers could later build on the cleared lands as there’s no law against
erecting homes or projects on burned-out land.
Greece called on the European civil protection organization for assistance while Prime Minister
Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who cut short his summer vacation to visit the fire department’s main
coordination center, said four firefighting planes were being sent from Croatia and Italy.
“The conditions today are exceptionally difficult,” said Mitsotakis, who thanked firefighters for
their efforts, adding that the government’s main concern was protecting human life.
European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides,
from Cyprus, said that the EU would help if needed and would bring in crews from other
countries to assist the beleaguered Greek squads.
According to the civil protection authority, the fire on Evia broke out at 3.16 a.m. in the Agrilitsa
area near the Monastery of Panagia Makrymallis but the source wasn’t reported. High winds,
reaching up to 31-38 miles per hour helped the fire spread quickly through dense pine forest.
It came under some control after the winds lessened and water-dropping planes and helicopters
poured down on the fire. The smoke was carried as far as Athens where the acrid smell of
burning wood lingered until late into the night on Aug. 13.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)