NEWS

Large blaze burns chunk of Mount Hymettus

A wildfire that broke out near Glyka Nera, on the northeastern outskirts of Athens, burnt some 100 hectares of forestland on Mount Hymettus and caused power outages in many parts of Athens before it was brought under control last night. In the first fire of the season to directly affect Athens, flames were seen progressing up the eastern side of Hymettus and, once over the top of the mountain, headed for homes on the fringes of some of the northeastern suburbs, such as Aghia Paraskevi and Holargos. No homes were damaged but the fire burned through forest that had been untouched for more than 60 years. The fire broke out at about 1 p.m. The cause was not immediately clear but initial theories pointed to arson or sparks from an electricity pylon. It was 45 minutes before the first helicopters began dropping water on the fire, as more than 200 firefighters, nine planes and some 50 fire engines were thrown into the fray. Firefighters were unable to have much impact on the ground as the fire reached parts of the mountain that were inaccessible by vehicle or on foot. Relying just on the efforts from the air, it took the fire service until about 6 p.m. to get the blaze under control. Glyka Nera Mayor Giorgos Siokos said that he was convinced that the fire was the work of arsonists. Mount Hymettus has more than 8,000 hectares of forest, which have faced the risk of fire on many occasions over recent years. Last summer, areas such as Vyronas and Holargos were threatened by blazes on different parts of the mountain. Senior fire officials told Kathimerini that yesterday’s blaze began in the same area that another five, much smaller ones, had begun in the past. They added that a 27-year-old man was arrested last month on suspicion of trying to light a fire in the same spot on three occasions. Yesterday’s blaze also caused power to be lost in various parts of Athens when it burnt through overhead wires. The center of Athens, the southern suburbs of Hellenikon and Glyfada and Piraeus were left without power for about an hour. The sudden outage led to many people getting trapped in elevators. The fire service said that it received more than 250 calls to help those who were trapped.