Greek experts fear ‘ecological disaster’ after major forest fire outside Athens


Experts in Greece warn of a “huge ecological disaster” in the nature conservation area outside Athens after a major forest fire ravaged the region last week.

On Saturday, more than 270 firefighters supported by 16 planes and the military battled the fires that broke out last Wednesday in the Geraneia mountains, about 55 miles west of the capital.

Greek fire chief Stefanos Kolokouris told ANT1 television that the blaze started early in the season and was one of the largest in the country for the past 20-30 years.

The Greek civil protection agency said the fire broke out near the village of Schinos when someone burned vegetation in an olive grove.

Euthymios Lekkas, professor of environmental disaster management at the University of Athens, told ERT state television that the fires have burned more than 21 square miles of pine forest and other land – including agricultural land.

“This is a huge ecological disaster that requires work to prevent landslides and terrible flooding in the fall,” he said.

Nonprofits and rescue organizations responded to the blaze by helping injured animals and providing food, water and first aid.

Greek environmental nonprofit ANIMA wrote about the events on Facebook, saying the fires happened during the “worst season” – spring – when animals give birth to their young.

“The fire in Schinos comes at the worst time when the babies are still in their nests, branches and burrows,” the organization wrote. “Sadly, few of these little creatures will be saved.”

The Greece-based office of the World Wildlife Fund launched a petition that received more than 5,000 signatures urging the government to take “serious preventive measures” against the wildfires.

Such events have historically been common in Greece during the summer, as fires are fueled by the country’s dry weather, strong winds and soaring temperatures in the 80s and 90s.

The worst forest fire hit the Attica region in July 2018, killing 102 people in the resort town of Mati.

Featured Image: Local residents near the village of Pefkaneas, west of Athens, watch the wildfire raging in the Geraneia Mountains. Photograph: Louisa Gouliamaki / AFP / Getty Images

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