ATHENS – After vowing not to repeat admitted shortcomings in reponses to hundreds of 2021 wildfires that swept across Greece, the New Democracy government is dealing with officials casting blame for the first big blaze of 2022.
That was on the outskirts of the Greek capital which created a second front although it was put under control fairly rapidly, unlike in 2021 when firefighting planes and helicopters weren’t widely used.
Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides, who’s from Cyprus, said there wil be “tough summer,” based on the meteorological forecasts for the Eastern Mediterranean region, which is considered a climate crisis “hotspot.”
“We are still at the start and the aim is to mitigate the repercussions of all the new phenomena arising from the climate crisis,” he added, said Kathimerini, the government calling in 200 firefighters from other European Union countries to have a ready reserve this year, anticipating more big blazes.
In the meantime, there’s a difference of opinion over what started the fire outside Athens, the paper said, the Fire Department ruling out it was from transporting fuel although an investigation is underway.
Sources at the Hellenic Energy Distribution Network Operator (DEDDIE) not named told the paper that no damage or spark had been identified in the power network and that it wasn’t the source.
The fire first started in the Attica suburb of Ano Voula and spread to the southern suburb of Glyfada, popular beachfront neighborhoods close to what’s called the Athens Riviera, where private clubs shut out access to puble beaches, allowed by every government.
But the paper also noted in the wake of the prosecution of former SYRIZA and municipal officials for the July 23, 2018 wildfires that killed 102 people that squabbling is still going on between mayors of Athens’ southern suburbs.
The President of the Union for the Protection and Development of Ymittos Mountain (SPAY) and Elliniko-Argyroupoli Mayor Yiannis Konstantatos, claimed that the place where the fire started, within the Municipality of Glyfada, was not cleared by SPAY this year because the municipality left the association.
But Glyfada Mayor Giorgos Papanikolaou claimed that SPAY never carried out systematic clearing.
“We left SPAY because we gave it 130,000 euros ($139,028) a year without result. SPAY constantly declared its inability to respond,” said Papanikolaou. “The clear-ups carried out by the municipality are in progress,” he said.
He also noted that the point from where the fire started was 500 meters (1,640 feet) from the settlement in the area of Ymittos. “It is not one of the points that we are cleaning up,” he added.