AFP, Released Tuesday, July 27, 2021 at 8:24 p.m.
A wildfire burned by strong winds damaged several homes in a pine forest on Mount Bentley near Athens, often devastated by summer fires.
“We were so scared, there was a sudden fire and we were able to see the flames next to the house in half an hour,” Lucia Matsuola, a resident of the area, told AFP.
“Fortunately we were warned by the authorities and we decided to leave the place before returning after a few hours,” he added.
One of the areas affected by the fire, about 30 kilometers from central Athens, was the mayor of Dionysus, Yannis Calafadelis, who said the eruption in the morning continued to burn Tuesday evening.
“The fire is long overdue and it is not over yet,” he added on public television ERT.
Four people have been arrested and an investigation is underway to find the cause of the fire, Deputy Minister of Civil Defense Nicos Hartalias told public television ERT.
“It’s a disaster, all of these burnt trees (…), setting fire to a residential area is unbelievable,” lamented Maria Sofo, who lives in the area.
According to firefighters, the fire was not yet under control by the end of the afternoon, but Mr Hartalias said the situation had “improved” and there were “multiple explosions” for him.
A total of 310 firefighters were mobilized, supported by ten helicopters and eight water bombers, according to the fire department, with winds of up to 38km / h and the temperature of 38 degrees critical operations being stressed.
– “Leave the campus to escape the flames” –
Many volunteers took part in the fight against the flames that engulfed the houses in the early hours of the morning.
“No one is in danger,” Vasilis Vadrakoyannis told Sky TV.
AFP reporters at the scene said smoke billowed from the roofs of two houses and at least three cars were burned.
“We were scared and we left the place very quickly to escape the flames,” Giorgos Ecclesakis told AFP, adding that no damage had been done to his home so far.
Major television channels disrupted their programs, sending a special edition live from affected communities at the foot of Mount Bentley, which continued to be affected by wildfires over the summer.
The smell of smoke and burning from the center of Athens was noticeable, with temperatures hovering near 38 degrees.
“The fire is developing. It started in Stamata and spread towards Rhodopoli. We sent important forces to fight the fires,” Jorgos Patolis, head of the Attica region, underlined.
The blaze affected Stamata, Rhodopoli and Dionysus, north of Athens.
Traffic was light at this intersection.
– Previous Killer in 2018 –
No evacuation order was issued, but residents left homes threatened with fires of their own free will.
Authorities sent warning messages on cell phones to warn residents in the area, asking them to “be prepared to follow instructions.”
“If you are in Stamata, Rhodopoli, Ekali, Trosia, Dionysus, close the fireplace, windows and doors to prevent sparks from entering,” the message warns.
Climate-depleted Greek forests are prone to fires every summer and are eaten by strong winds.
In July 2018, 102 people were killed in a fire in the coastal city of Athens near Athens, the worst death toll in a fire in the country.
The fire started with Haimatus and Bernita from the slope of Mount Bentley, one of the three mountains surrounding the bedrock of the Greek capital.
Much of the pine forest on Mount Bentley was further destroyed by major fires in 1995 and 1998, leading to a series of illegal constructions in Greece.