Wildfires Tear Across Greece again, More Seen This Summer

ATHENS – It doesn’t look like the summer of 2021, when hundreds of wildfires blazed across Greece and caught the New Democracy government’s response unaware at points, but 56 broke out on July 2, with worry more are coming.

The fires were mostly put out early and didn’t spread but rising temperatures and dry conditions, and unusually windy weather have fire officials anxious that it could be difficult to contain big numbers of outbreaks.

Fire Warrant Officer Rafaella Tzima, called on citizens to remain vigilant and call either the Fire Service number, 199, or the emergency number, 112, as soon as they notice the first sign of a fire, said Kathimerini.

Tzima said conditions will be especially difficult in central and southern Greece, as well as the eastern Aegean islands. “This was the first difficult day of the wildfire season,” she said.

Access to national parks and forest was limited on July 4 because of the high risk of fires, the spokeswoman said.

Nearly 200 firefighters and dozens of municipal workers and volunteers battled a major blaze in the Peloponnese that started under “suspicious” circumstances, possibly arson, which is common in Greece.

The wildfire began near the village of Portes in the east of the region of Achaia and gradually spilled into Ileia in the south as was fed by trees and underbrush and driven by high winds, the paper said.

Residents in the small villages of Karagianeika and Dalaboureika were ordered to evacuate overnight by SMS message from the 112 civil emergency service, though the regional governor of Achaia, Haralambos Bonanos, told state broadcaster ERT they were able to return July 4.

“The situation is much better,” he said. “Yesterday’s big fronts have been brought under control and now the flames are in a remote area between Haravgi and Portes.” The Fire Service has also sent an arson investigation team to the site of the initial fire.

That happened as fhe first of more than 200 firefighters from six European countries that will help their Greek colleagues in fighting wildfires arrived in Athens on July 1 to help aid the fight.

The 28 Romanian firefighters were welcomed by Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides and the leadership of Greece’s Fire Service that vowed to be better prepared this year.

“Romania is happy to join the pre-positioning program with a specialized firefighting force,” said Romanian team leader Colonel Alexandru-Adrian Csilik. “We have previous experience here in Greece,” he added.

The Romanians, along with other countries, including Russia and Turkey, helped Greece fight widespread wildfires in August 2021, which broke across the country and devastated the northern part of the island of Evia, Greece’s second largest, as well as the southern Peloponnese peninsula.

This year, the EU has set up a “pre-positioning pilot project” designed to lead to a permanent Europe-wide cooperation scheme after the disastrous summer of 2021 saw fires across the bloc, partially blamed on climate change.

The Romanian firefighters, who brought five fire engines along, will operate in the Attica region, which includes the capital Athens, until July 31. The first arrivals will be relieved by an equal number of Romanian firefighters on July 15. Their place will be taken in August by a 25-strong French contingent.

A team of 16 Bulgarian firefighters, with four fire engines, also arrived in central Greece, where they will operate throughout July. On July 15, meanwhile, 16 German firefighters will arrive in the Peloponnese; they will be replaced in early August by 14 Norwegian and also 24 Finnish firefighters.


(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)




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