Greece has been fighting for 11 days against a devastating fire in the Evros border region (northeast of the country), which the European Commission described as “the largest fire ever recorded in the European Union” after it killed 20 people and caused an “environmental and economic catastrophe”.
Announced on August 19, this fire has already burned more than 81,000 hectares, including a large part of the Dadia National Park in Evros, according to the European Copernicus Observatory (EMS). European Union”, said on Tuesday in Brussels Palaz Ojvari, spokesman for the European Commission
It is the largest single wildfire since 2008, according to the Environmental Management System. But in the past, events marked by multiple simultaneous outbreaks in the same area have been more devastating, such as in Portugal where smoke rose from 286,000 hectares from 13 to 17 October 2017.
Today, Tuesday, fires continued to burn in the Dadia forest, located in the center of the city of Evros in the Thrace region, protected by the European Natura 2000 network, and internationally known as a place of residence or hibernation for birds of prey.
According to firefighters, there are still three outbreaks of the disease, and on Tuesday night the Civil Protection recommended the evacuation of the village of Kotronia near Dadia. Last week, several villages in the Evros region threatened by fire were evacuated.
A total of 475 firefighters with 100 vehicles, 6 planes and 4 helicopters were mobilized on Tuesday in Evros and the nearby Rhodope province, which was also affected by the fire.
The European Union recently sent 11 planes and helicopters from the European fleet to help Greece with 407 firefighters, half of the common European air assets, according to Balaz Ojvari.
The vegetation is so dense in this area that the flames are often invisible, and the water thrown by firefighters often does not reach the stoves burning on the ground, according to estimates by forest rangers in the Evros region that marks the Greek-Turkish border. (860 km from Athens).
Last week, 20 charred people, most of them migrants and including two children, were found near Alexandroupoli, the capital of Evros.
Dadia Park consists mainly of black pines (Pinus nigra) and Scots pines (Pinus protea) interspersed with oak trees, and is famous for its birds of prey, especially the black vulture (Aegypius monachus), the griffon vulture (Neophron percnopterus) and the Egyptian vulture. Vulture (Gyps fulvus), according to the Hellenic Society of Ornithologists.
Referring to a major fire in Dadia in 2011, forest ranger Dora Scartsis believes that “everything that has been renovated since then has been lost” in recent days.
“If we take into account forest areas burned by fire in southern Evros, we are talking about a huge ecological catastrophe. The picture is tragic,” said this expert, who heads the Society for the Protection of Thracian Biodiversity.
The Dadia Forest is vital to the local economy, as it supports logging, beekeeping and tourism activities in the Evros region, one of the poorest provinces in the country.
In Alexandroupoli municipality alone, more than 4,000 sheep and goats, as well as 50 sheep pens, were burned, according to preliminary estimates, while warehouses containing animal feed were also destroyed, Kostas Donakis, head of the local breeders’ association, said on Monday. Public TV channel Ert.
“The hardest summer”
After a ministerial meeting held on Tuesday under the auspices of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, necessary reforestation measures were announced in the Evros region and Mount Parnis, near Athens, which was also devastated by another fire in recent days.
Environment Minister Theodoros Skilakakis announced the anti-flood work and compensation for herders, farmers and residents who lost their homes.
Like countries around the Mediterranean, Greece has been in the grip of several wildfires this summer, burning 120,000 hectares so far, according to estimates by the Hellenic National Observatory — three times the annual average since 2006, according to the Environmental Management System.
The government blames the fires on climate change. “This is the most difficult summer in terms of climatic conditions, which makes the work of the authorities (…) much more difficult,” government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis said on Monday.