Evros fire is EU’s largest in decades

According to reports, 808.7 square kilometers have burned, an area larger than New York City

Evros fire is EU’s largest in decades

The Evros fire in northeastern Greece has destroyed at least 808.7 square kilometers, an area larger than New York City, which occupies 778.2 square kilometers, making it the largest blaze in the EU since 2000, according to data from Copernicus’ Emergency Management Agency.

The fire originated near the city of Alexandroupoli and swiftly spread across the Evros area, killing at least 20 people last week in Europe’s deadliest conflagration this summer, fueled by gale-force winds and high temperatures. It burnt vast swaths of greenery and devastated houses and livelihoods.

“The fire is now in remission,” the mayor of Alexandroupoli, Ioannis Zaboukis, told Kathimerini. “Now the fire service is monitoring and intervening where there is rekindling, which is occurring exclusively in the forest of Dadia,” he said, noting that the contribution of foreign firefighters “was catalytic, from the moment they arrived.”

“The difference was obvious, there was real planning,” he said, noting that “the locals were leading them.”

In fact, the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism (rescEU) has mobilized its largest airborne firefighting operation ever to help extinguish the fire. 

Indeed, since Greece activated rescEU (for the second time this summer) on August 20, the EU has deployed 11 firefighting planes stationed in Croatia, Cyprus, France, Germany, Spain and Sweden, one Czech Republic Blackhawk helicopter, 407 firefighters, and 62 vehicles from Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia. 

The mood in Alexandroupoli on Tuesday was bleak. The pall of smoke from the fire had dissipated, but residents, many of whom have lost crops and pastures, remained extremely concerned.

“In the first few days, before the fire encircled the city, it was essentially burning plains, and management was much easier than after,” said Pavlos Georgiadis, a specialist in forest ecosystem regeneration. 

“The fire was caused by lightning that struck a Public Power Corporation pole at around 4.30 a.m. on Saturday, August 19,” said Dimitris Kalaitzidis, director of the Ralleios High School of Piraeus, who was in the village of Nipsa. 

“According to information, the fire was initially extinguished by firefighters, but rekindled and started its journey southwest, at speed,” he added.

Kalaitzidis detailed the evolution of the fire in the first hours in a text with dialogues, which went viral on social media.

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