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Wildfire rages near Athens – nature reserve also threatened

Near the Greek capital Athens, the fire brigade is battling a large forest fire, the last one in September 2023

Hot, dry and windy weather has caused the risk of forest fires in Greece to explode. Flames are already raging in many places. The situation is particularly tense near the capital Athens. A nature reserve there is under threat.

In Greece, the hot and dry weather of the past few weeks has also brought the bushfire season back into full swing. In many places, emergency services are battling hot spots, and there is a high risk of forest fires in large parts of the country. Stormy winds are making firefighting efforts this weekend even more difficult.

Large contingent of emergency personnel and heavy equipment

Around 40 fires have been counted since early morning. The authorities called on people to stay away from the forest areas. A large forest fire is also keeping people on tenterhooks outside Athens. A fire broke out on Saturday in the densely forested area around 20 kilometers north of the Greek capital and is threatening a nature reserve.

According to the fire service, around 80 firefighters were deployed on Saturday to contain the flames in the mountainous region of Parnitha. They were supported by helicopters and twelve firefighting aircraft. “In general, the conditions are difficult and dangerous,” said fire service spokesman Vasilis Vathrakogiannis at a press conference. Gusts of more than 100 kilometers per hour made operations more difficult. Reinforcements from other Greek regions are helping to fight the fires together with volunteer fire services.

Long cloud of smoke in the sky over Athens

Thick, grey-brown clouds of smoke drifted over many districts of Athens. In many places, the smell of burning was in the air and ash was falling. According to reports from the Greek broadcaster (ERT), there are no tourist facilities near the fire area. Civil protection warned again that the second highest fire alert level would be in place in large parts of central Greece over the weekend.

Forest fires are not uncommon in Greece. But in recent years they have become more devastating as summers have become hotter, drier and windier. Scientists see this as the effect of climate change. There has also been hardly any rainfall in recent days and temperatures have been above 35 degrees Celsius for several weeks. Added to this are the strong winds. According to the meteorological office, gusts of up to force eight raged in the region near Athens.

Houses not yet threatened by the flames

However, houses are not threatened by the fire, said an official. “The situation is stable so far.” Meteorologists warned, however, that the wind is unlikely to subside before Sunday. A large part of the nature reserve, which is covered with pine and fir trees, was destroyed by a major fire in 2007. The Civil Protection Ministry’s fire warning map predicted a very high fire risk for the regions of Attica, Peloponnese, Crete, the North and South Aegean and Central Greece on Sunday.

After the severe forest fires last summer and the warmest winter in Greece since records began, the authorities have tightened their strategy against forest and bush fires. In 2023, 20 people were killed in forest fires in Greece. According to the National Observatory of Athens, the flames scorched almost 175,000 hectares of forest and agricultural land.

Bad news in the afternoon: Another fire broke out

The situation in Parnitha has improved, Civil Protection Minister Vassilis Kikilias said in the evening. However, the battle is “not over yet.” Another fire broke out in the afternoon, 20 kilometers northwest of Athens in Lakka Katsari. A fire in the southeastern town of Keratea was brought under control.

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