NEWS

First major fire of summer hits near Athens

More than 800 hectares of mostly shrubland were burned by a wildfire that broke out almost 50 kilometers northeast of Athens on Saturday and which took the fire service most of the day to get under control, as firefighters battled against other, smaller blazes as well. The fire service said yesterday that initial estimates indicate that Saturday’s fire destroyed 800 hectares of greenery between Kapandriti and Varnavas, a few kilometers from the resort of Kalamos. It was the first major forest fire of this summer in Greece. The blaze broke out early in the day and was fanned by gale force winds. More than 300 firefighters, 100 soldiers and 61 fire engineers took part in the ground operation to but out the blaze. Six airplanes and four helicopters also played a vital part in getting the fire, which developed on several fronts, under control by repeatedly dropping water. The fire was put out soon after 2 a.m., the fire service said. Although the wildfire got close to a number of homes, only a shack was burned and no injuries were reported. Residents, however, were forced to leave their homes as the blaze spread. Experts were investigating the possible cause or causes of the blaze. There was a suggestion that it may have been ignited by sparks from a Public Power Corporation sub-generator in an area between the communities of Mikrochori and Agonas, which the fire service said it would be looking into. Athens’ chief First Instance Prosecutor Eleni Raikou also launched a separate probe into the fire as well as a blaze near the port of Lavrio, southeast of Athens. This fire was brought under control quicker but a children’s summer camp was evacuated as a precaution. Another smaller blaze also broke out in Grammatiko, northeast of Athens, and there were unconfirmed reports that two men had been arrested yesterday in connection with the fire. Sources said that the two suspects were aged 27 and 37 and that one of them is suspected of discarding a cigarette that started the fire. Yesterday, firefighters were called out to attend to wildfires on the island of Salamina and in Megara, north of Athens. No homes or lives were at risk in either of the blazes, which were under control by late last night.