The wildfire in Evros in northeastern Greece showed no signs of abating Wednesday despite the efforts of a multinational firefighting force.
Now in its twelfth day, the blaze that began near the port city of Alexandroupolis on Aug. 19 joined with smaller fires to form an inferno that has decimated homes and vast tracts of land near the border with Turkey.
The blaze led to the evacuations of thousands of people and was blamed for twenty of Greece’s twenty-first fire-related deaths last week.
In the most deadly incident, the bodies of eighteen migrants were discovered by firefighters in the Dadia Forest.
According to the Fire Brigade, extinguishing efforts are concentrated in the areas of Lefkimmi, Kotronia and Tris Vryses, where the most flare-ups occur. At the same time, there are also flare-ups in the area of Kassiteri.
A total of 475 firefighters with a hundred vehicles, sixteen teams on foot are operating, assisted by eleven airplanes and seven helicopters who are trying to tame the flames concentrated deep in the forest of the Dadia National Park.
Evros wildfire is the EU’s largest
With around 81,000 hectares (200,000 acres) of land burned, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Emergency Management Service, the blaze is the largest single wildfire any member nation has experienced since the European Forest Fire Information System started keeping records in 2000.
Copernicus is the EU space program’s Earth observation component and uses satellite imagery to provide mapping data.
Hundreds of firefighters from Romania, France, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Albania, Slovakia and Serbia have helped battle the blazes, along with 12 aircraft from Germany, Sweden, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France and Spain.
A large portion of the Dadia Forest has been burned, and it is feared that several species of animals and birds have been affected. Surveys have recorded at least sixty species of mammals, twelve species of amphibians, twenty-nine reptilian species, and over a hundred butterfly species.
There are also anywhere between three to four hundred different plant species; birds include the black vulture, Egyptian vulture, and Griffon vulture.
After initial protection in 1980, in 2006, the Dadia Forest became a national park, protecting an area of some 428 sq km (165 sq mi).
The mayor of the nearby town of Soufli, Planagiotis Kalakikos, referred to the forest’s role as a source of living for several professions in the area, including for woodworkers, beekeepers, and tourism professionals.
“In the last decade, we have seen a drop of 22 [percent] in demographics, and obviously the intensity of natural disasters, besides damaging the environment, affects the local economy,’ he reported. “The fire will be put out, but we must also see to the day after also.”
Dozens of new wildfires have broken out each day in Greece in recent weeks, with the vast majority extinguished in their early stages, But several grew into major fires that have burned for days, triggering the precautionary evacuations of thousands of people.