Fire razes mastic gum trees on Chios

Nearly 13,000 hectares of arable land and forested areas, including hundreds of valuable mastic trees, have been razed by a wildfire that burned into its third day on Chios Monday.

Authorities are trying to assess the damage on the eastern Aegean island from a blaze that began in the early hours of Saturday, possibly by an arsonist, and continued to threaten villages and crops Monday.

The European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) estimates that the fire has consumed a total of 12,740 hectares so far, dealing a massive blow not just to the island?s agricultural economy, but also to the world supply of Chios mastic, a resin used in a variety of food and cosmetic products which has protected designation of origin status.

Yiannis Madalas, head of the company behind Mediterra SA, a Chios Mastic Growers Association company, estimated Monday that the areas hit by the wildfire account for around 53 percent of the island?s total yield.

?Some 3,000 families live off the gum trees, which are the main source of income in the south of Chios, while many more supplement their incomes with mastic production,? Madalas told Kathimerini.

Madalas said that it takes an average of five to seven years before the Pistacia lentiscus begins producing the golden resin.

Chios produces between 20-25 percent of the world?s mastic crop, mainly around the village of Pyrgi, which was badly hit by the blaze.

Meanwhile, two firefighters were injured Monday while battling a blaze in the eastern Peloponnese, which was heading south from Troizina toward the popular seaside resort of Ermioni. The mayor of Troizina, Yiannis Sabanis, told Skai TV Monday that the blaze was out of control, confirming that three fireman had been injured but were in no serious danger.

The fire service was also last night battling blazes on the northeastern flank of Mount Pilio in central Greece.