NEWS

People to blame for most fires

Firefighters were last night trying to extinguish wildfires on Mount Athos in northern Greece and on the Cycladic island of Andros as the fire service issued figures indicating that more than 90 people have been arrested for arson or causing fire through negligence since the start of the year. The fires on Mount Athos and Andros were just two of more than 35 blazes the fire service was called to yesterday. More than 200 wildfires were reported over the weekend. Even though the scale of devastation has not matched that of last year, when fires burnt large tracts of Evia and the Peloponnese, Greece has experienced several large fires this summer, including one that recently razed forestland on the Dodecanese island of Rhodes. The department of the fire service that deals with arson revealed yesterday that 92 people have been arrested since the start of the year for causing fires. The arrests were related to 86 fires, 28 of which were in farming areas, 27 in forests and 13 in areas with low vegetation. Of these, 50 fires started as a result of negligence while 18 are being treated as willful arson. According to the figures that this department has collated over the last 10 years, only 5 percent of wildfires start without any human intervention at all. Between 15 and 20 percent are caused by arsonists looking to scorch land on purpose, while human negligence is responsible for around 75 percent. A 59-year-old man and his 48-year-old wife faced a prosecutor in the Peloponnesian town of Gytheion yesterday after being accused of arson. The man allegedly used a lighter to set fire to scrubland next to the Gytheion-Sparta national road. One of the fires was put out by passers-by but the other burnt one third of a hectare before firefighters arrived to extinguish it. Nobody was injured. The 59-year-old, who has not been named, did not explain why he had started the fires, authorities said. The couple is due to stand trial for arson today.