Firefighters take over 2 fires
ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Despite strong winds, firefighting jets and ground forces in Greece gained the upper hand on two new fires that broke out in areas already marked by major forest fires on Monday evening this summer.
The first erupted on Monday morning in the southern part of Evia, Greece’s second largest island, whose north was devastated earlier this month by a blaze that burned for more than 10 days. The second forest fire broke out in Kaza, in the Vilia region northwest of Athens, where a large fire was brought under control on Friday after burning for five days.
Firefighters said Monday evening that the Kaza fire was on the decline and the Evia blaze was under control.
Previously, authorities had issued an evacuation order for Vilia, 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the Greek capital. Some residents have watered their gardens and homes, hoping to save them, while police halted traffic on a nearby highway. At least half a dozen buildings were badly damaged in the area.
Firefighters sent 167 firefighters as well as 60 vehicles, 14 helicopters and 14 planes to fight the flames.
This month, which started with Greece’s worst heat wave in around three decades, is quickly turning into one of the country’s most destructive fire seasons, with dozens of wildfires which are declared every day. Thousands of people were forced to flee the flames, which devoured forests, farmland, homes and businesses.
But Greece’s emphasis on preventive evacuations from populated areas has helped keep people safe. Among all the fires, a volunteer firefighter was killed and two firefighters suffered severe burns.
The causes of the forest fires in Greece have not yet been officially established, but more than a dozen people have been arrested on suspicion of arson. A special prosecutor for organized crime was involved in the investigation.
Intense heat and forest fires hit other Mediterranean countries. Recent forest fires have killed at least 75 people in Algeria and 16 in Turkey, while in southern France, 1,200 firefighters struggle to contain a major blaze that has forced thousands to flee, killed two and 26 wounded.
Worsening drought and heat also fueled wildfires in the western United States and the northern Siberian region of Russia.
Scientists say there is no doubt that climate change from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is causing more extreme events.
Nicholas Paphitis in Athens contributed.
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