The wildfire raging west of Athens since Wednesday evening has destroyed over 4,000 acres (16 square kilometers) of forest, Deputy Minister of Civil Protection and Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias said on Friday.
“We are moderately optimistic that the fire will be contained during the day,” the Greek official added.
According to the fire service, there are many dispersed fronts in the blaze, but the situation appears better on Friday, as winds moderated and firefighting planes and helicopters joined the 278 firefighters on the ground at dawn.
“The fire got to within five kilometers of Megara” on Thursday, a local resident told Skai, referring to a coastal town around 60 kilometers (37.28 miles) west of Athens.
“Vineyards, cottages, crops have been burned, it’s a total disaster… many of my friends have had their homes burned,” he said.
Officials said a number of properties have been destroyed, but they declined to give precise figures before the fire was extinguished completely.
Investigation on how wildfire started
The blaze started late on Wednesday in the Corinthian Gulf village of Schinos, apparently by someone burning vegetation in an olive grove, the Civil Protection Ministry said.
Special arson investigators have been on the scene since Wednesday night, while the EU’s Copernicus satellite service has been activated to track the fire from the time of its origin.
On Thursday, Greek authorities issued evacuation orders for 18 towns and villages in the greater area of Corinth as winds were expected to strengthen overnight.
Two Greek Orthodox monasteries and one convent were also evacuated for precautionary reasons.
The wildfire sent ashes and a cloud of smoke over Athens, with the smoke obscuring the view of the Acropolis by midday on Thursday.
According to the meteo.gr weather service, the thick smoke from the fire west of Athens has reached as far as Ikaria, an island located in the eastern Aegean.
Fire department spokesman Lt. Col. Vassilis Vathrakoyiannis said in his remarks that this is the first major fire of 2021 after the smaller fire that broke out on the island of Andros in April.
”The fire was hard to deal with overnight. But the use of aerial means after daybreak was key. The situation did improve after that point but it remains dangerous with fires rekindling at many locations,” he stated.
The fires were the second-deadliest wildfire event in the 21st century, after the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Australia that killed 173.