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2021 Fires in Greece Burned Almost Double the Area of NYC

Evia fire
Reforestation is the next step needed in all areas devastated by the fires. Credit: Konstantinos Balalas / Greek Reporter

The catastrophic 2021 fires in Greece burned an area almost twice the size of New York City, according to a report by the Meteo services of the National Observatory of Athens, released on Tuesday.

According to the report, 84 forest fire incidents were mapped in Greece last year, which burned a total area of ​​more than 1,300,000 stremmata (around 130,000 hectares). This is roughly an area double the size of New York.

The Meteo service says that 2021 is by far the worst year of the last 13 years in terms of the total burned area in Greece. The burned area of ​​2021 approaches the sum of the burned areas of the last eight years (2013 – 2020).

Fires Greece
The number of forest fires and areas burned in Greece between 2008 and 2021. Credit: Meteo/National Observatory of Athens

The report also notes that 2021 was the worst year in terms of the average burned area per forest fire. Between 2008 and 2020 the average of the burned area per fire was 500 stremmata (50 hectares), whereas last year it shot up to 1,500 stremmata (150 hectares).

The meteor researchers warn that as the firefighting period of 2022 starts in 5 months, it is necessary to review the practices applied in the field of prevention and preparation for dealing with forest fires.

The largest forest fire in Greece in 2021 was on the island of Evia in July and August, where more than 50,000 hectares of forest were destroyed.

Fires Greece Evia
A satellite picture of the area on the island of Evia burned by the catastrophic fire. Credit: Meteo

Climate change blames for fires in Greece

The 2021 Greece wildfires were multiple wildfires in late July/early August 2021, which have killed 3 people, injured at least 20 others and burned dozens of homes, after a historic heatwave for the country with the highest temperatures, reaching 47.1 °C (116.8 °F).

The largest wildfires were in Attica, Olympia, Messinia, and the most destructive in northern Evia from which ferries have evacuated about 2000 people.

The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis lamented the situation, underlining that Greece’s priority is that of saving lives and attributed the fires to climate change.

The World Meteorological Organization highlighted the Greek wildfires in its press release response to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report Working Group I report, noting the wildfires as an example of the extreme weather being caused by climate change.


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