Flames burn a house during a wildfire in Voula suburb, in southern Athens, Greece, Saturday, June 4, 2022. A combination of hot, dry weather and strong winds makes Greece vulnerable to wildfire outbreaks every summer. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)
ATHENS – Worried about another summer of wildfires, Greece’s fire brigade officials were tested with a fire that broke out in the suburb of Ano Voula near the southern coast and a popular beach area, but said they got it contained.
Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said that the blaze was put under control with fire officials on alert to avoid a repeat of the disastrous summer of 2021 when hundreds of fires tore through the country, including Athens.
The Voula fire threatened homes and was still burning on the morning of June 5 but no longer a threat, officials said, although it wasn’t indicated how it started as the New Democracy government has toughened laws for fires started accidentally.
“We faced a very difficult fire due to the difficult weather conditions and the contoured landscape. In spite of the adverse conditions, all those involved – in the field and in coordination – through the coordinated efforts of all the forces of civil defense and the fire brigade, succeeded in containing yesterday’s very difficult fire within six to seven hours,” Stylianides said.
He warned, however, that this was the start of what promised to be a “hard summer” ahead, based on the meteorological forecasts for the Eastern Mediterranean region, which was considered a climate crisis “hotspot,” the state-run news Athens-Macedonia News Agency (AMNA) said.
“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, which Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said was largely responsible for the 2021 fires which he admitted had shortfalls in responses he said are being fixed.
Deputy Climate Crisis Minister Evangelos Tournas said the fire was especially tough to deal with and noted that there were no deaths or injuries in a densely populated area that posed other difficulties.
He noted that the fire had started in three different locations and reached the forest on the outskirts of residential areas, so that some homes sustained damage in spite of the fire brigade’s efforts.
Firefighting forces remained to watch for any rekindling or a further breakout and firefighting planes – which the government said weren’t properly used in 2021 – aided in putting out the blaze and were dousing smoldering remains.
The fire started in the Ano Glyfada area the afternoon before and was quickly spread by strong winds to Ano Voula, while two more fires broke out in Vari and Kouvara. A total of 61 fires broke out throughout the country, with 17 fire-fighting aircraft available to fight the fires in Ano Voula as well.
PHILADELPHIA – The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Philadelphia and Greater Delaware Valley announced that the Evzones, the Presidential Guard of Greece will be participating in the Philadelphia Greek Independence Day Parade on March 20.
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