Fire strikes Attica again

Firestrikes Attica again: Big effort needed to tame blaze near homes in northernAthens

30 July 2007

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Greece — The Fire Service said last night that it had managed to control awildfire that broke out in the northern Athens suburb of Stamata yesterdaybefore it reached homes and business premises.

For yet another weekend this summer, firefighters battled several blazesaround Greece but the fire at Stamata caused particular concern because of itsclose proximity to houses.

More than 40 firefighters, 15 fire engines and four water-dropping airplaneswere deployed in the operation to put out the blaze, which was fanned by strongwinds that spread ash and smoke over other areas in the north of the city.According to initial estimates, the fire burned some 30 hectares of pine-coveredland.

Some residents reported hearing three explosions before the fires started,prompting speculation that arsonists were responsible for the blaze.

Firefighters also brought under control a fire on the island of Salamina,near Piraeus, yesterday. An incendiary device was found in the Kaki Vigla areawhere the blaze began and authorities said they had detained a man on suspicionof arson.

Among the other fires reported yesterday were blazes on Mount Parnassos,central Greece, in Evros and Florina, northeastern Greece and near Ioannina,northwestern Greece.

The overstretched Fire Service was boosted by the arrival yesterday of thefirst of several aircraft pledged by Russia to help in the firefighting effort.The Beriev BE 200 amphibious aircraft can carry up to 12 tons of water. TwoRussian helicopters were also expected to arrive in Greece last night.

Government ministers are expected today to visit the northern Peloponnese –one of the areas worst affected by wildfires – to begin assessing the damagecaused to forests and properties in the area.

Over the weekend, the government pledged 1.3 million euros to AchaiaPrefecture and municipalities hit by the fires that ravaged more than 30,000hectares. People whose homes were damaged by the blazes will receive animmediate payment of 3,000 euros, while those whose houses were completelydestroyed will receive a third of the cost to rebuild the property as a directgrant and the remainder can be repaid as a 15-year interest-free loan.

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