A midday walk by Prime Minister Costas Simitis on the slopes of Mount Geranion near Corinth yesterday may have helped save the lush pine forest from going up in smoke: His report that a fire had broken out was met by an immediate and massive response. Simitis and his wife Daphne, accompanied by bodyguards, were walking on the mountain near their holiday home at Aghious Theodorous at about 1 p.m. when they saw smoke. They then saw that the forest had caught fire. A farmer who had been burning dry brush in a field on the slopes was trying to fight the blaze. Simitis ordered his guards to detain the farmer and call the fire department. Ten fire engines rushed up, with 30 firemen and a detachment of special forces, and two planes began dumping water on the fire. It was extinguished in three hours, after burning 25 stremmas (2.5 hectares) of forest. Farmer Sotiris Mexis is to face charges of causing a fire through negligence. Ioannina Police Chief Anastasios Katsaros told the conference that some 350,000 of the estimated 700,000 weapons stolen from Albanian army barracks, during the 1997 uprising by victims of a pyramid get-rich-quick scheme, are still in the hands of ordinary Albanian citizens and criminal gangs. About 1,000 illegal firearms have been confiscated in Greece each year since 1997.