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Summer wildfires fizzle out

- by Jeremy Guest

Dramatic drop in fire outbreaks despite heatwaves.

Despite a recent summer heatwave across Greece and the Greek islands, firefighters report a significant drop in the number of woodland fire outbreaks this year.

And what outbreaks occurred have been far less damaging than in previous summers according to latest available figures from the Hellenic Fire Department.

Firefighters report a sharp 25% drop in the number of wildfire outbreaks in the Greek Islands in 20i4 and the damage reduced by several thousand hectares.

This does not mean that fire services in Greece have not been busy over the long summer holidays.

Roasted by the summer sunshine the tinder dry woodlands and hillsides of Greece are always susceptible to outbreaks and every year services are stretched to contain blazes in high summer winds.

Only recently Greek firefighters were called out to tackle 130 wildfires in a single weekend but overall, the summer has seen an average of 45 wildfires every day.This is a 25% drop on last year's wildfire outbreaks.

Last year, wildfires have swept across several Greek holiday islands. Firefighters on Thassos feared for their lives after some were surrounded by flames near the holiday resort of Kalirachis.

Suspected arsonists were arrested following fire outbreaks on the island of Chios and on Kefalonia while other major outbreaks were reported on the mainland in Arcadia, Achaia and Ftiothida .

Greek authorities announced a ban on weekend motorists and walkers in many of the forested areas of Greece and forest patrols were stepped up to curb the outbreaks.

Experts attribute this year's drop to milder weather and lighter winds earlier in the season. Low humidity can cause fires to start more quickly while high winds fan the flames once they have started.

A Greek fire service spokesman said:"Humidity levels are higher, wind intensity is lower and we have not had constant and drawn-out heatwaves this year."

The biggest wildfire in Greece this year broke out in south-east Attica on the mainland in July and swept through 600 hectares of forest, gutting several houses.

Another major fire broke out in the Fthiotida area of central Greece in June and burned for three days' fanned by high winds.

Forest fires are common during Greece's long hot summers and in 2007 about 70 people died in blazes that swept through much of central and southern Greece.