GFMC: Forest Fire Situation Analysis for Greece, 18 July 2000

Forest Fire Situation in Greece

18 July 2000

Greece Fires from Space seen by the NOAA AVHRR and SeaWiFS

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A heat signature (red) and what appears to be the burn scar from the wildfire on the Greek island of
Samos is visible in this NOAA-14 image. The burn scar covers about 30% of the central portion of
the island. The right image shows several heat signatures (red) are visible from fires burning in central Greece.
Additional fires may be obscured by clouds.

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Hot, dry weather has contributed to a string of fires that burned in Greece during the first two weeks of July 2000.
Smoke from one of these fires is streaming across Greece and out into the Aegean Sea in this image taken 13 July 2000,
by the Sea-viewing Wide Field of view Sensor (SeaWiFS).
(image provided by Earth Observatory/NASA)

Fires in Bulgaria and Romania

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Heat signatures (red) are visible from a number of fires burning along the eastern border between
Bulgaria and Romania, and in southeastern Bulgaria.

Greece seeks international help against forest fires (17 July 2000)
Greece on Friday called for international help to fight nearly a dozen major forest fires raging unchecked for a second day, as strong winds hampered efforts to extinguish blazes across the country. Firefighters, forest rangers and the army joined forces with local volunteers in a desperate effort to put out over 100 forest and brush fires that flared up on Thursday, destroying thousands of acres of forests, farmland and numerous houses. Many of the fires receded overnight as strong winds died down temporarily, but blazes on nine main fronts continued and there were concerns that other fires could reignite as the winds picked up again. “We remain on a constant state of alert as we expect northerly winds to pick up again,” government spokesman Dimitris Reppas told reporters. He added that tourists faced no danger. Amid some of the most devastating fires to hit Greece in recent years, the government said it would hire an extra 1,500 forest rangers to battle the blazes, on top of 4,000 seasonal firefighters already called in to assist 9,500 full-timers. A total of 52 fire-fighting planes and helicopters are being used to battle the blazes on the mainland and on islands.

Help from abroad
The call for international help was made as those fighting the latest fires approached exhaustion in their efforts to put out the blazes. A recent heatwave, that began 12 days ago, and scores of other fires around the country have taken their toll. The Russian government, which has already sent eight fire fighting helicopters, was planning to send two II-76 planes, capable of carrying 42 tonnes of water. The Israeli and Czech governments also pledged resources to help fight the Greek fires. Israel has already sent 50 men, two Sikorsky fire-fighting helicopters and C-130 airplane, while the Czech Republic has pledged four airplanes and two helicopters. Germany was also due to send two helicopters and a C-130 plane on Friday, along with four more helicopters on Saturday. The mainland prefectures of Corinthia, west of Athens, and Achaia in the Peloponnese were among the worst hit. A 25 km (15 mile) wall of fire raged on in Corinthia, with numerous villages abandoned and more than 30 houses burned. At least 12 people were taken to hospital, suffering from minor burns and smoke inhalation. Thousands of concerned residents in Corinthia spent the night on beaches and in main town squares after they abandond their homes as the flames neared. Most spent a sleepless night as fires and smoke on nearby burning hillsides approached. Fires on the eastern Aegean islands of Chios and Rhodes were brought under control, but two hotels on the lush northern Aegean island of Thassos had to be evacuated as a precaution as flames and smoke from burning pine forests neared. Development Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said that the fires were no reason for panic and that everything was under control. “No human life has been in danger so far…all forces are ready to deal with any potential problems,” he said. Christodoulakis also said that no scheduled or charter flights to Greece had been cancelled.
(Information Source: Story by Philip Pangalos, Reuters News Service)

Update: Sunday, 16 July 2000, 12:15 local time (09:30 UTC)
The forest fire situation in Greece has been improving steadily since Friday. After the passage of a dry cold front on Thursday, which started 184 difficult to control fires within one day, the firefighting forces started getting the situation back into control.

Approximately 30 fires escaped initial attack on Thursday. Less than 15 were burning out of control by Thursday evening. By Saturday morning only four of the large fires were still active: northern coast of Peloponnese, Pelion peninsula in central Greece, Thassos island in Northern Greece, and Pindos mountain near Konitsa in northwestern Greece. Eighty-four other fires that started on Friday were all controlled immediately.

The Greek government urgently contracted six additional CAMOV helicopters in support of its already strong but stressed other aerial and ground firefighting forces. The Israeli government also sent two Sikhorsky helicopters. Additional help offered by other nations was not accepted as it became evident that the situation was getting under control.

Starting Saturday, it started raining in Western and Northern Greece, bringing much needed relief to the firefighting forces. Although only the fire on Pindos mountain received rain, the overall situation became easier as air relative humidity increased significantly.

Unfortunately, early on Saturday morning, one of the Canadair CL-215 planes fighting the fire on Pelion peninsula, crashed on the slope of a hill after releasing its load on flames burning tall shrub vegetation. Witnesses stated that one of the wings hit a tall pine tree, which protruded from the shrub vegetation. The two pilots were killed on the spot.

Fire danger is forecasted as low to medium over most of the country for today and tomorrow. As the last three fires are now practically under control, it is hoped that the firefighting forces will have the opportunity to mop-up and guard them effectively, and also to rest and reorganize before the next increase in fire danger.

Dr. Gavriil Xanthopoulos
Forester – Forest Fire Specialist
GFMC Correspondent, Athens, Greece


Retrospective: International Response on Friday, 14 July 2000
On 14 July 2000 the GFMC posted the following message at 14:45 GMT:

The call of the Greek government for international assistance in fighting the forest fires in the country three countries so far have offered support. The Czech Republic, Israel and Germany will immediately dispatch firefighters.

The German contribution will consist of a group a specialized fire fighting vehicles and other equipment which will be rushed to Athens by an AN-124 transport plane. The plane will leave Hahn Airport (Germany) at 21:00 local time and land in Athens. The on-site coordinator of the group will arrive in Greece tonight.

The German fire brigades will be dispatched to Peloponnes Peninsula.

Communication Channels:
The cell phone number of the on-site German coordinator Mr. Richard van Hazebrouck is: ++49-172-9109011
A Greek liaison to the German on-site coordinator is Mr. Georgios Radoglou. His cell phone is: ++30-944-512-634

The GFMC is ready to assist further international coordination and can be reached via

Tel. ++49-761-808011

At 14:55 GMT the following message was given to the German agencies involved:

Dear colleagues,
the GFMC update concerning the German fire-fighting aid was removed from the GFMC website because the operation was cancelled some minutes ago.

Head, GFMC

For short-to long term fire-weather forecasts for southern Europe see the Experimental Climate Prediction Center (ECPC) web site.

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Europe fire-weather forecast for tomorrow, Wednesday 19 July 2000

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Europe fire-weather forecast (weekly) for the time period 15-23 July 2000
(Source: ECPC)

The last national fire report from Greece (1999) was published in IFFN April 2000 issue.

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