Forest Fire Situation Analysis for Greece and Southern Europe
12 July 2000
Wildfires burned thousands of hectares of forests, farmland and scores of homes throughout the Balkans yesterday, but a cold snap from northern Europe promised relief for the scorched region. The heat-wave sweeping the area has killed at least 25 people and sparked hundreds of forest fires. In Greece alone, about 150 fires burned an estimated 25,000 acres of land before coming under control Tuesday. A huge forest fire on the Aegean island of Samos was still burning on three fronts but was under control Tuesday. Enduring temperatures of more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit for over a week, the Balkans were anxious for a cold snap that has touched northern Europe to move south.
After last week’s soaring temperatures, it snowed in Italy Tuesday while Germany and France were covered by rain showers. Apart from the Mediterranean coast, in most parts of France residents put on sweaters and carried umbrellas as temperatures dipped to five or six degrees below seasonal averages.
(Information source: Environmental News Network)
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Forest Fire Situation Analysis for Greece and Southern Europe (11 July 2000) Greece is facing the worst conditions for forest fires in decades, with parts of the country burning out of control. Hundreds of specially drafted firefighters and local volunteers continued to fight forest fires on the Greek island of Samos overnight. A state of emergency remains in effect there and in central parts of Greece. A number of villages have been evacuated, people fleeing with what they can carry, and fires have been burning on all sides of the airport used by tourists. About 150 fires consumed forests and farmland all over Greece at the weekend but most were being controlled Monday. A combination of arson, negligence and accident were directly to blame for the fires, adding that authorities had found incendiary devices in some areas. Officials of the Interior, Public Order and Agriculture ministries decided late Sunday to hire extra four fire-fighting helicopters. The fire fighting fleet increased up to a total of 15 planes and helicopters to fight the fire on Samos. Further several hundred firefighters and 70 fire engines were trying to stop the flames, which constantly changed direction. Strong winds also fanned blazes in the Fthiotida region of central Greece, where authorities also declared a state of emergency and shut down the national highway for several hours. Fires also threatened inhabited areas in other parts of Greece, from the northern city of Kavala to the Peloponnese peninsula in the south. The weather conditions are extreme and the forecast for the coming days shows a worsening of these weather conditions.
Elsewhere, firefighters were dealing with large wildfires in Bulgaria, Kosovo, Romania, southern France and Italy – where two pensioners died. In Bulgaria, a state of emergency was declared in the south-east as a fire spreading on an estimated 100 km wide front swept through rural areas. Officials say 500 hectares of wheat fields and 5,000 hectares of forest had been destroyed. Fires in southern Croatia were brought under control by nightfall on Monday. In southern France, firefighters remained on alert as high winds were forecast in the region where forest fires claimed two lives and destroyed 1,000 hectares over the weekend.
Forest Fire Situation Analysis for Greece (10 July 2000) 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 (anomaly compared to long-year average fire-weather data) for the time period 8-15 July 2000