In Greece, fires are worrying as a summer approaches, which promises to be particularly complicated

A forest fire on the Greek tourist island of Hydra, close to Athens, was started by the shooting of fireworks from a yacht on Friday evening, seasonal firefighters denounced, Saturday June 22, 2024.

“The fire, caused by fireworks from a boat, burns the only pine forest on the island, in a place that is difficult to access and has no road,” denounced the island’s seasonal firefighters on Facebook, with supporting photo, sparking anger on social networks.

The fire was quickly brought under control and no longer threatens the Hydra forest.

The island’s mayor, Giorgos Koukoudakis, said “outraged that some people would so irresponsibly throw fireworks into a pine forest,” on public television ERT. He added that “the municipality would file a civil suit against those responsible for the fire as soon as the preliminary investigation is completed.”

Greece recently toughened penalties for arson. The perpetrators of the fires can now be sentenced to up to twenty years in prison and a fine of up to 200,000 euros.

Read also: Greece experiences its first heatwave of the year, the Acropolis of Athens partially closed

A “very high” fire risk

On the TV channel SkaiGiorgos Koukoudakis also called on the authorities to act, emphasizing the fact that “the island has no fire zones or forest roads” allowing firefighters to access certain areas.

Saturday June 22, civil protection called for the greatest vigilance while the risk of fire “remains very high” particularly in the Attica region, which surrounds the Greek capital, in the Peloponnese (south) and in the center of the country.

A resident next to a charred car, as a forest fire burns in the village of Kalfas, southern Greece, June 21, 2024. | GIORGOS MOUTAFIS / REUTERS
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A resident next to a charred car, as a forest fire burns in the village of Kalfas, southern Greece, June 21, 2024. | GIORGOS MOUTAFIS / REUTERS

Read also: With global warming, “immune” regions will be affected by fires

New fire outbreaks

A 55-year-old man, resident of the village of Myrtia, in the Peloponnese, died Friday in a forest fire in Greece, where 45 new fires fanned by violent winds had been recorded, according to firefighters.

Since Wednesday, authorities have continued to warn of the “very high risk” of forest fire due to strong winds and high temperatures which in some regions reached 40°C.

No stranger to heat waves, Greece has been preparing for weeks for a particularly difficult summer in terms of heatwaves and forest fires after having suffered the hottest winter in its history.

Residents in the village of Latas, southern Greece, on June 21, 2024.  | GIORGOS MOUTAFIS / REUTERS
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Residents in the village of Latas, southern Greece, on June 21, 2024.  | GIORGOS MOUTAFIS / REUTERS

First heatwave this week

The Mediterranean country went through its first heatwave last week with temperatures locally reaching more than 44°C. It had already experienced devastating fires causing more than 20 deaths and a two-week heatwave of more than 40°C, unprecedented in its duration, in 2023.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), rising temperatures caused by human-caused fossil fuel emissions are lengthening the fire season and increasing the area burned.

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