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Arson Seen in Deadly Greek Wildfire Again, Military Joins Patrol

Αssociated Press

Smoke fills the sky as a member of the emergency services blocks a road near Kineta, west of Athens, Monday, July 23, 2018. Residents were fleeing their homes Monday as a swift-moving fire blazed through a mountainous pine forest west of Athens and churned out smoke that turned the sky orange over the Greek capital. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS – A wildfire in east Attica outside Athens that killed at least 79 people was suspected to have been deliberately set, as were others in past years so that developers could seize the burned lands with no law against building on the devastated properties.

The deadly fires have been lucrative for developers and little has been done to stop it despite the tragedies, with the July 24 fire in the area around Rafina, sweeping down Mt. Penteli, razed in earlier fires.

Greece's Defense Council sent specially trained members of the armed forces and National Guard on fire-prevention patrols with civil protection authorities after Defense Minister Panos Kammenos flew over the area east of the Greek capital.

He was joined by Alternate Defense Minister Fotis Kouvelis, along with the chief of the Hellenic Air Force, Christos Christodoulou. “What we saw was complete devastation,” Kouvelis told the ANA-MPA news agency.

The council also said hat Greek and allied drones and air craft would show live aerial feeds to civil defense authorities from parts of the country that are at particular risk of fire or arson to keep those from being burned for profit too after earlier fires near Corinth.

The arson-for-profit schemes are usually carried out in the summer with the perpetrators having taken hundreds of lives over the years.

Citizens' Protection Minister Nikos Toskas sai three or four blazes had been extinguished on July 22, a day before the deadly fire tore down the mountain and spread to the coast. “These fires are not so innocent,” he said, according to Kathimerini. Greece's Supreme Court ordered an investigation into the causes of the east Attica blaze.