A week of very high temperatures (> 40°C) and extremely low relative humidity all over Greece was followed yesterday by the passage of a dry cold front. Fire danger that was forecasted at level 3 (high, on a 1-5 scale) for the last 4-5 days, climbed to level 4 on Sunday over most of the country.
A fire on the densely forested island of Samos that had started last Thursday night and had already grown large due to the combination of strong winds, high temperature and low relative humidity had absorbed most of the firefighting forces attention and resources by Sunday. As the winds picked up just before the passage of the dry cold front on Sunday evening, more than 100 new fires erupted, mainly in central Greece. Fanned by the strong winds they grew, many of them putting villages that fell in their path, in danger. As winds shifted to NW, the situation became worse and burned areas grew very large in a short time.
On the island of Samos one 93-year old woman died in her house that burned. Another man received second degree burns as he was helping firefighting forces. Three Fire Service firefighters received minor injuries.
By this morning, the winds have decreased significantly in central Greece and most fires are put under control. However, the Meltemi (North) wind on the island of Samos is not expected to make life for firefighters on the island of Samos easy. At this time, more than 700 firefighters (out of a total of 10,000 for the country) have concentrated on Samos, with more than 60 firetrucks. Their efforts are supported by a varying number of CL-215, CL-415 waterbombers, generally no less than six, and 3-4 large helicopters.
This year, as a very difficult summer in terms of forest fires was forecasted, Greece has added to its fleet of 3 new Canadair CL-415, 15 CL-215 and 18 PZL Dromader planes, the help of a large number of contracted aerial means. They include:
2 additional CL-215,
3 heavy lift MI-26 Russian helicopters that in addition to dropping water can also carry two firetrucks each to the Greek islands,
1 Ericsson Air-Crane helicopter
1 Camov 32 helicopter
4 MI-8 helicopters
Following a governmental meeting yesterday, it was determined to look for help in terms of aerial means outside Greece, both as country-to-country help, and through contracting additional helicopters.
As of this time, it is quite clear that the fire of Samos will take a lot of effort to be contolled. The other fires should be out by the end of the day. However, following a brief ease in maximum temperatures today, it is expected to see temperatures rising back to about 42°C by Thursday, so probably the worst is not over yet.
By Dr. Gavriil Xanthopoulos
Forester Forest Fire Specialist
GFMC Correspondent, Athens, Greece
For short-to long term fire-weather forecasts for southern Europe see the Experimental Climate Prediction Center (ECPC) web site.
Europe fire-weather forecast for the time period 8-15 July 2000