A wildfire which has been burning at the Cretan municipality of Agios Vassilios, Rethymno on Friday, rekindled on Saturday afternoon due to strong winds, the Hellenic Fire Service has confirmed.
The fire is burning at the Agios Georgios area, where luxury rental homes for tourists have been evacuated by order of Giannis Tatarakis, the mayor.
The mayor told local reporters that he believes the start of the fire on Friday was a result of arson.
The Hellenic Fire Service had dealt with 51 forest fires across Greece in 24 hours by Friday evening and kept battling with regional wildfires in Rethymno, Crete until dawn, as strong winds hampered firefighting operations.
Although there were no more active fronts at the Rethymno wildfires on Saturday morning, water-dowsing helicopters and ground forces were still operating in the area where six villages had been evacuated on Friday as a precaution.
Wildfires in areas of Corfu and Attica were also burning out of control overnight.
Rethymno villages evacuated as wildfires raged
As wildfires were still blazing for a second day, the village of Melabes at Agios Vassilios, was evacuated by order of Mayor Giannis Tatarakis via the 112 emergency text alert.
The fires near the villages of Orne and Kria Vrisi were also uncontrollable, with over 40 fire engines operating against fires at Orne and at Rodakino, Korakas beach, in the southern part of Agios Vassilios municipality.
Residents at Korakas beach were earlier told to evacuate their homes, where flames nearby were burning through low bush and olive groves.
The first fire in the area broke out on Friday in a semi-mountainous area in the municipality of Agios Vasilios between the villages Orne and Krya Vrysi in Rethymno. The wildfire no longer posed a threat to the two villages, but Orne had also been evacuated earlier as a precautio,n as the flames came within eighty meters of its perimeter.
There were seventeen fire engines assisted by ground teams and dozens of fire fighters, as well as two water-bombing helicopters and twenty local-authority water tanker trucks fighting the blaze on Friday afternoon.
Strong winds were pushing the flames through agricultural land toward the central road leading from Rethymno to Agia Galini.
Strong winds will continue until Tuesday, which places Rethymno on high risk alert for wildfires, said Dr. Kostas Lagouvardos, Research Director at the National Observatory of Athens.
51 forest fires in a day in Greece
A total of 51 wildfires were recorded throughout Greece within the past 24 hours, according to an update by the Hellenic Fire Service at 9 pm on Friday, July 15th.
A wildfire that broke out earlier that day in a forested area in the south of Corfu island at Klisoures Alevropari was still raging and not yet contained by Friday evening, as it was burning in hard-to-reach areas inaccessible by ground firefighting forces.
Fifteen firefighters with five fire engines were assisted by two Pezetel aircraft and one helicopter.
Additional reinforcements were sent to help put out a blaze that started in Feriza in the southeast Attica municipality of Saronikos Gulf.
The forces battling the fire, which started in low-growing vegetation in an area near scattered dwellings included 92 fire fighters, five ground teams, 22 fire engines, four aircraft, and three helicopters assisted by volunteers and local authority water tanker trucks.
A message via the 112 emergency number had instructed people in Agios Panteleimonas in Anavyssos to evacuate the area and head toward Lagonissi due to the fire. A similar message for precautionary evacuation had even been sent to people in the Saronikos area earlier.
An arson investigation team was ordered to head to the scene to investigate the cause of the fire by order of the fire brigade chief.