COMMUNITY

Fire fears mount ahead of summer

YIANNIS ELAFROS

TAGS: Fire, Environment

The failure of the state apparatus to prevent the massive loss of life and the destruction of homes in the July 2018 wildfires in the east Attica towns of Neos Voutzas, Mati and Kokkino Limanaki have raised concerns about the country’s ability to deal with potentially major wildfires this summer.

These concerns are exacerbated by the unusually wet weather of the last few months, which has resulted in thick plant growth in many parts of the country, and especially in southern and eastern parts, which are more prone to wildfires.

Crete is seen as being especially at risk, after flooding wiped out part of its road network, which would prevent fire trucks from approaching possible conflagrations.

Meanwhile, meteorologists have predicted that this May and June will also be unusually wet, further boosting the growth of weeds and underbrush.

“Late rains lead to even more underbrush, which then dries out, right in the middle of the fire season. That is when it can turn into a powder keg, a real danger,” the president of Greece’s Union of Municipal Forestry Workers, Nikos Bokaris, tells Kathimerini.

“There is also the larger problem of our forests being neglected by farmers. You see tall weeds allowed to grow in olive groves that are not being cleared, for example... We need the farmers’ presence and more active forestry services,” he adds, stressing the need for large-scale brush clearance operations.

According to environmental scientist Costas Papageorgiou, Greece this year is looking at a longer summer with higher temperatures and arid conditions this, “which act in favor of forest fires.”

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