Firefighters continued their efforts to put out the fire front in a ravine near Platania, part of an extensive fire that broke out in central Evia on Tuesday morning, according to late night reports on Thursday.
The Fire Brigade said before midnight Thursday that they had succeeded in preventing the fire, which had spread to the boundaries of a wildlife sanctuary of Agrilitsa northeast of Platania, one of four villages evacuated after the fire was fuelled by strong winds that have hampered firefighters these past days. They also specified that flames reached 2 km away from the forest which is included in the Natura network of wildlife sanctuaries in Europe but as of this writing (before midnight), fire had not harmed it.
Additional fire fronts that were under partial control have been rekindling in central Evia, adding to the difficulty of operations, although Friday’s weather forecast calls for rain and lower temperatures.
Since there are no other large fires in Greece, where the summers are high-risk fire seasons, existing forces were supplemented with additional help, including three aircraft contributed through the voluntary RescEU program for EU member-states facing natural disasters, especially fires.
Forces supplemented by RescEU
As of Thursday afternooon there were a total of 382 firefighters – 172 of whom are footpath units – and 98 fire trucks, 5 aircraft and 5 helicopters from the Greek armed forces, two Italian and one Spanish airplanes, a coordinating airplane and a mobile operation center (“Olympos”). Additional contributions included the Greek army’s 8 units on foot, 4 large-project machinery; the region’s and local governments’ 10 water vehicles and 8 large machinery; the Forestry Service; the emergency ambulance service EKAV; and 38 volunteer firefighters with 6 private vehicles.
The Fire Brigade said that although the outlook was better on Thursday than the past two days, it would take several days to put the fire out, as its perimeter is essentially out of control. They also said they were keeping abreast of a forecast for stormy weather in northern Greece on Thursday and Friday concerned about winds rising again.
Heavy machinery contributed to creating buffers around villages and the town of Psahna, where the fire zone kept the flames from reaching the town. Four cars were reported burned at Psahna but no deaths or serious injuries have been otherwise reported so far.
Firefighters, working around the clock for almost two days, were all replaced by 09.30 on Thursday.
Destruction of 2,268 hectares confirmed
The fire broke out at a dense pine forest in central Evia – initially believed to be part of the Natura wildlife sanctuary network but later corrected – which has been completely destroyed.
According to satellite data of Meteo weather service at the National Observatory of Athens, up to 12.45 on Wednesday, nearly 22.68 square kilometers (2,268 hectares or 22,680 stremmas) have been incinerated in the Mt. Dirfy-Messapies area of Central Greece. The Observatory expects the figure to rise, as the fire continues to burn.