Greek wildfire destroying a home during August 2021. Photo by Felton Davis, Flickr.
18 Aug 2021

Southern France now also battling large forest fires - New fires near Athens

The large forest fire near Saint Tropez which started in in the south of France on Monday is still out of control. Thousands of locals and tourists have been evacuated, and on Wednesday, two casualties of the fire were confirmed.

The wildfires in Greece continue to approach the capital Athens,  and now France has also been affected by a major forest fire.

Up to 650 hectares are burning about 40 km inland from Saint Tropez, reports the news agency AP. The fire started on Monday evening and strong Mediterranean winds have caused a rapid spread. On Tuesday evening, the wind calmed down a bit and the fire did not spread further during the night, but the fire is not yet under control.

Center of Saint Tropez, France, 2011. Wikipedia Commons License 
Center of Saint Tropez, France, 2011. Wikipedia Commons License 

7,000 locals and tourists have been evacuated from when the smoke and flames began to get closer and closer. According to France 24, more than a thousand tourists have had to leave a campsite in the village of Bormes les Mimosa.

"We have never seen a fire spread at such a rate, it was three or four times the norm," Thomas Dombry, mayor of the village of La-Garde-Freine, told AFP.

1,200 firefighters are fighting the fire, including water bombing aircraft and helicopters. Authorities are urging evacuees not to return to their homes.

French President Emmanuel Macron interrupted his holiday in the nearby area to thank the firefighters for their efforts.

 

 

More wildfires broke out Monday in Greece. The country has been battling heavy wildfires in an extreme heatwave already for two weeks. Two new fires fanned by strong winds triggering evacuation alerts for villages southeast and northwest of Athens. 

On Monday, a fire started in the town of Vilia, just over 40 km outside Athens. Shortly afterwards, another fire broke out in the southeastern part of the Keratea area, just 30 km from Athens city center. In addition to these two fires, there are also a dozen more. smaller fires burning in the area. 

The first wildfire, which broke out in the morning in the Keratea region southeast of Athens, quickly burned through shrubland and headed in the direction of a national park in the Sounion area.

Three communities in the area were ordered evacuated. The fire department sent in 91 firefighters, six water bomber airplanes and six helicopters, while some residents tried hosing down their homes with water to protect them from the radiant heat. 

Dimitris Loukas, the mayor of the Lavreiotiki region  told Greek television that arson was suspected as the cause of hte new fires. Local residents had reported seeing someone in a car setting a dumpster on fire in the area.

Northwest, another fire occurred in the Vilia area, which led to an evacuation alert for three other villages. Strong winds were predicted to last until at least the evening. More than 60 firefighters are working in the areas, as well as by eight water-dropping planes and five helicopters.

Tens of thousands of hectares of forest and farmland have been destroyed, along with homes and businesses have been  been destroyed. One volunteer firefighter have died, and four have been hospitalized, including two in critical condition in intensive care units.

The fires have stretched fire services  to the limit. The Greek government appealed for international help in the beginning of July.

24 European and Middle Eastern countries have allegedly sent firefighters, helicopters, planes and vehicles. By Monday, most of the help had left the region since the fires were considered under control at this point. 

The major fires which have been burning in early August  the island of Evia and a national park north of  Athens) were still not entirely extinguished on Monday, representatives of the Greek fire departments said in a statement.

 

The intense heat has led to severe forest fires in several countries around the Mediterranean in recent weeks. In Algeria at least 75 people have died and in Turkey 16. In Italy there has also been  several fire-related deaths.

Extreme drought and heat have caused forest fires in other parts of the world this summer, including in the western United States and in Russia's northern Siberia.

 

Cover Photo: Greek wildfire destroying a home during August 2021. Photo by Felton Davis, Flickr.