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US Experts Assist Greece to Revive Fire-Stricken Areas

Greece fires
American experts work on the fire-stricken areas of Greece. Credit: USDA Forest Service

A US team of experts presented a report on Monday to revive areas in Greece that were destroyed by the fires of SUmmer 2021.

The team from the US Forest Service’s Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) program  presented the report on the works already carried out in fire-stricken areas, as well as proposals for protecting and restoring them.

The presentation by the US experts was carried out with the participation of Environment and Energy Minister Kostas Skrekas and the US Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey Pyatt.

“After the disastrous wildfires of last August, our top priority is to reconstruct the fire-stricken areas and adapt forest ecosystems and the natural environment to the repercussions of the climate crisis. The American scientists expressed their satisfaction with the extent of the works in the fire-stricken areas and their rapid implementation. They recommended that we continue the excellent work in order to fully protect the areas and settlements hit by the wildfires from possible floods,” Skrekas said.

On his part, Pyatt said that the members of the team had verified, among other things, that the Greek government has taken the right measures for the recovery of the burned areas.

“The good news is that our soil scientists believe that the damage to the soils from the fires in August was relatively moderate and that the Greek government is already taking very good steps to begin the process of regeneration, and that nature also is doing its work,” Pyatt said.

Hundreds of fires burned in Greece in July/August

Record-high temperatures and abnormally dry weather contributed to extreme wildfire activity in the eastern Mediterranean, including in Albania, Algeria, Greece, Italy, North Macedonia and Turkey. Hundreds of wildfires burned in southern and western Greece beginning in late July and extending through August.

The European Forest Fire Information System reports that fires burned over 129,000 hectares (319,000 acres) this year, more than six times the yearly average. Wildfires have destroyed 300 homes, led to thousands of residents evacuated and killed at least two people in the country.

The Forest Service BAER team has arrived in Greece at a critical moment, as recently burned areas are beginning to pose hazards to people and communities. The team recently traveled to the northern region of Evia Island, which is experiencing mudslides following an August wildfire. The team began their post-fire rehabilitation assessment and analysis on the island over the weekend, and plan to visit other burned areas in the regions of Attica and Ancient Olympia before returning to Athens prior to departure.

“We are excited to be here sharing our knowledge of post-fire assessment processes with the government of Greece to strengthen their wildfire response,” said BAER team member Shauna Jensen, who works in Callifornia’s San Juan National Forest.

“We are completing soil burn severity assessments, which will provide important information to local teams for prioritizing burned-area mitigation efforts.”

Through the Disaster Assistance Support Program, the Forest Service deploys personnel in support of USAID/BHA to help countries around the world respond to natural disasters and other crises. The DASP provides critical support to countries in moments of need and equips Forest Service participants with valuable experience managing projects in disaster areas.

Related: Greek Reporter Delivers $172,000 in Fire Relief to Victims on Evia

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