A wildfire broke out on Monday near the town of Lavrio, southeast of Athens, forcing the Fire Service to order the evacuation of a nearby village.
The fire is burning vegetation and is threatening the village of Markati. Residents are asked to evacuate towards Lavrio.
A battle is now being fought to keep the flames contained before they spread to Sounio National Park, and officials now believe it will be extremely difficult to stop its course.
The same goes for the fire in Vilia, which is also at this point uncontrollable, burning a pine forest, and villages there have been evacuated.
Access to the Aghios Konstantinos-Anavyssos road, and the old Lavrio-Keratea road is blocked for the time being.
The fire near Sounion is currently spreading throughout the arc of Merkati-Synterina-Agios Konstantinos, and villages, including Dimoulaki, have been evacuated.
Currently, winds are blowing at a strength of 4 (11 to 16 mph) on the Beaufort scale, with gusts up to 6 Beaufort (22-27 mph), pushing the fire toward Sounion, making the work of the firefighters extremely difficult.
“The biggest problem is located in the settlement of Agios Konstantinos and efforts are being made to prevent the fire from spreading to the residential area and the National Park,” said Attica Deputy Regional Governor Nikos Peppas, speaking during SKAI’s noon news bulletin.
An elderly woman with mobility problems is now missing, according to the mayor of Lavreotiki, Dimitris Loukas, who spoke earlier to interviewers from Skai radio.
He claims that the Lavreotiki fire started as a result of arson.
“The fire started from an arson. It was a white pedestrian, who put it in a trash can and the fire escaped afterwards. The mayor of the municipality saw it,” he said.
Right now, 91 firefighters are fighting this blaze, including three groups of firefighters on foot, along with 34 vehicles and the Mobile Operation Center OLYMPOS. Six aircraft and six helicopters, including two Army Air Force helicopters, have been deployed and are operating as needed in the firefighting efforts.
Volunteer firefighters using construction machinery and water tanks provided by local authorities are doing what they can in the fight against the new fire. The firefighting forces are coordinated by the Chief of the Fire Brigade, Lieutenant General Stefanos Kolokouris.
Officials from the Arson Crimes Directorate are investigating the causes of the fires.
Lavrio fire aided by strong winds
The local mayor, Petros Filippou, told iefimerida.gr that the fire has created “a rather large front which makes it difficult for the firefighters to tackle, as the winds in the area are very strong and move the fire front with great speed.”
“The fire has already burned a large hill and we do not know what is happening in the back,” he added.
Six aircraft and two helicopters are aiding the efforts of dozens of fire fighters on the ground to control the spread of the blaze.
More than 500 wildfires have broken out across Greece in recent weeks during a severe and protracted heatwave that sent temperatures soaring to around 45 degrees Celsius (113 Farenheit).
The largest fire, on the island of Evia near the capital, burned for over a week earlier in August before being contained, ravaging swaths of forestland in the island’s north and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people by sea.
More Than 287,000 Acres Burned in Greece fires
The meteorological service of the National Observatory of Athens issued a new statement on Friday morning in regard to the magnitude of the environmental catastrophe that wildfires have caused in Greece this year.
After analyzing data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), the NOA stated that a total of 1,161,650 stremmata, or 287,049 acres, of land have been burned since the beginning of the fire season in Greece for 2021.
This represents an astonishing 448% increase compared to the average annual burned acreage between 2002 and 2020.
A total of 58 large forest fires have taken place in Greece in 2021. This gives an average of 4,942 acres being burned per large fire in Greece, putting the country at the top of the Mediterranean nations for this year.
Curfew in Greek Forests Extended to August 20
The curfew on going to forests, national parks, EU Natura-designated sites, and city forest groves introduced by the government on August 5 will be extended to August 20, Greek authorities said on Thursday.
Staying or even moving in or driving through these forested areas is banned. This was decided to prevent accidental fires occurring during a very dry season.
After the onset of forest fires, many pray for rain to come, hoping it will extinguish the flames. Rains after forest fires, however, are a great cause for concern, as blazes increase the risk of subsequent flooding exponentially.
When fires rip through the landscape, they burn not only countless trees and plants, but also their roots, which go deep into the ground.
This complex web of root systems is integral to maintaining the structure of the landscape. Roots embedded deep in the ground help to keep the soil in place, stabilizing it during any potential rainfall, no matter how torrential.
Additionally, healthy forest ecosystems protect the ground against the physical impact of the heavy rainfall, and therefore prevent flooding to a degree.