Athens, Greece: Hundreds of Greek firefighters battled a forest fire near Athens for a third day on Saturday, but weather conditions improved and the main front of the wildfire was brought under control.
The fire, which started in the Geraneia mountain range 90 kilometers (55 miles) west of the capital, is “one of the largest in the past 20 to 30 years” and “has come early in the season,” according to fire chief Stefanos Kolokouris.
The fire department said more than 270 firemen were battling the blazes, which were aided by 16 aircraft and the army.
There were no recorded injuries, but a number of homes were damaged or destroyed, and a dozen towns and hamlets were evacuated.
Better weather conditions allowed firefighters to bring the outbreak’s main front under control late Friday, but Kolokouris said there are still “many active and scattered” fires.
More than 55 square kilometers (21 square miles) of pine forest and another land, some of which is agricultural, have been burned by the fires, according to Euthymios Lekkas, professor of environmental disaster management at the University of Athens.
“It’s a huge ecological disaster that needs work to avoid landslides and terrible flooding in the autumn,” he told ERT public television.
The extent of the damage, particularly to farmers, will only become evident once the fire has been brought under control, according to the civil protection service.
It was started late Wednesday near the town of Schinos, close to the resort of Loutraki on the Corinthian Gulf, by someone allegedly burning foliage in an olive grove, according to the report.
Athens was clogged by smoke from the fire, which was accompanied by ash falling from the sky.
It was the season’s first forest fire.
Every summer, Greece is ravaged by forest fires sparked by dry weather, high winds, and temperatures that regularly exceed 30 degrees Celsius (86 F).
At Greece’s worst-ever fire disaster, 102 people died in the beachfront town of Mati, near Athens, in 2018.