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Greek Forest Fire Danger Down in 2019, But Still Risky

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(Photo by Eurokinissi/Mihalis Karagiannis, file)

ATHENS – While it seemed the spate of forest fires in Greece this year continued the country's long plague of woods burning – after the disastrous July 23, 2018 fires that killed 102 people and nearly wiped out the village of Mati northeast of Athens, they were the least devastating compared to previous years over the past decade.

That was the finding of the Greek chapter of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) which cautioned nevertheless that the impact of climate change that deniers said isn't happening means forest fires will still be a problem, with many past fires attributed to arson so that developers could build on burned-out land as there's no law against doing so.

Latest data of the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) said some 12,045 hectares (29,763 acres of forestland was burnt by fires in 2019 – the lowest figure in the past 10 years, but viewed against colossal fire damage previously.

The annual average in 2009-19 stands at 13,523.4 hectares (33,417 acres) with the group advising against complacency because the 2019 fires were still destructive and swept across vast swaths of land and forests.

The data, it said, should be used to plan for the the protection of the country’s forests “against chronic problems that are likely to be further heightened in the coming years due to climate change,” with the new New Democracy government promising to improve firefighting efforts and upgraded systems.