Spate of fires raises suspicions of arson

As water-dropping aircraft helped firefighters on the ground to extinguish three large blazes on the islands of Skopelos and Evia and in Corinth, Interior Ministry officials expressed fears that the blazes had been started by arsonists. Ministry officials and high-ranking members of the state fire service told Kathimerini that all three blazes «raised suspicions,» as they had all broken out in areas that had been highlighted by civil protection authorities as particularly susceptible to fire due to the combination of strong winds and high temperatures. The largest blaze was on Skopelos, a popular tourist destination in the Sporades group, and kept the local fire service busy for several hours due to its inaccessible location. «While waiting for backup, we used bulldozers to open roads to the fire,» the island’s deputy mayor, Giorgos Patsis, told Kathimerini. Additional firemen eventually were dispatched from Larissa, aboard a Super Puma helicopter, to aid the firefighting effort and reportedly had managed to contain the flames by late in the evening. Another fire that broke out in the Marmari area of Evia in the early afternoon on shrub land near the roadside spread quickly and had burnt an estimated 80 hectares of land by the time it was extinguished. Additional firemen were sent to the area from nearby Halkida. The third major blaze yesterday, in Zevgolatio near Corinth, was extinguished relatively quickly by two water-dropping aircraft. Another fire also broke out on the popular eastern Aegean island of Samos yesterday but was brought under control quickly. In a related development, a 42-year-old man facing arson charges in connection with a fire that broke out last Saturday in Metaxada, in the Peloponnesian prefecture of Messinia, was remanded in custody yesterday.