NEWS

Arsonists leave trail

Almost two weeks after one of the most destructive forest fires ever seen in Attica, authorities believe that the blaze may have been started by a crude incendiary device made of trick candles normally used at children’s birthday parties, sources told Kathimerini yesterday. For the first time since the blaze on July 28, investigators believe that they have evidence confirming the suspicions of the government and local officials that the fire was the work of arsonists. After questioning five people in connection with the fire in eastern Attica, which began near the port of Rafina, a special branch of the fire brigade which investigates cases of arson has narrowed down its focus to two suspects. Sources at the Public Order Ministry said investigators were confident of catching the people responsible for the fire, which burned some 750 hectares of land. Their confidence is fueled by the discovery by firefighters of what experts believe are the remnants of homemade devices that were probably used to light the fires. Authorities were immediately convinced that arsonists were to blame since, after the initial blaze, multiple fronts opened up at virtually the same time. The devices were rigged to use reigniting birthday candles, sources said. Firefighters found the remains of 19 such candles in the aftermath of the fire, which forensic scientists are now examining. Investigators are also looking into the activity of real estate companies in southeastern Attica for clues. It is thought that the fire may have been started on purpose to burn down forested areas, clearing the way for people to move in and build on or sell the charred land. So far, the fire brigade has received a mere handful of calls (fewer than 10) with information about who may have been behind the fire despite the fact that the government offered a reward of up to 100,000 euros for information that might lead to an arrest. However, sources indicate that officers are not discouraged by this since it means they do not have to spend time sifting through excess or useless information. Since the start of the year, five people have been charged with arson in brush fires around Greece.