Firefighters on Saturday continued to battle a wildfire at Dadia–Lefkimi–Soufli Forest National Park in Evros that had burned 800 hectares of forest, nearly 2,000 acres, by Friday night.
The protected area, home to dozens of animals and four hundred plant species, is Greece’s biggest Natura 2000 site.
Over three hundred firefighters and sixty-eight fire trucks responded to the blaze along with ten water-dumping planes and nine helicopters.
Wildfire at Dadia National Park Started Thursday
The fire started Thursday, and at a Friday evening briefing, a fire service official described the blaze as pushing west as strong winds and rugged conditions, along with dry terrain, created unfavorable conditions for responders.
Fire Brigade spokesman Giannis Artopios said that “great efforts are being made in order to save one of the most ecologically sensitive national parks of the Mediterranean.”
Responders included volunteer civil protection groups and several soldiers.
Local officials said the blaze was moving toward Lefkimmi, a thickly-forested area, and had gotten larger.
Dadia National Park is considered among the most important protected areas in Europe and globally and one of the first in Greece to be given such a designation. Flora and fauna species found in the Balkan Peninsula, Europe, and Asia also co-exist in the park. It is Greece’s biggest Natura 2000 area. This denotes a network of core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species, as well as some rare, natural habitat types which are protected in their own right. Natura 2000 stretches across all 27 EU countries, both on land and at sea.
Dadia Park Fire Latest in a Damaging Season in Greece
Greece’s wildfire season this year has been another damaging one. In a recent example, hundreds of firefighters on Wednesday, brought a large wildfire that had begun on the slopes of Mount Penteli under control, a day after it broke out in the northern suburbs of Athens.
Dozens of houses were either entirely burned or damaged by the fire with at least thirty-four people hospitalized and nine settlements evacuated.
An arson suspect connected to that fire was caught on camera on Thursday. Locals said they saw a man lingering near the forest and behaving oddly on Tuesday just before the fire broke out, according to the Greek television network Alpha.
In early June, a total of 157 forest fires were recorded in Greece over three days, with fifty-four of them breaking out in a single 24-hour period.