Greek firefighters bring under control large forest fire north of Athens

Greek firefighters bring under control largeforest fire north of Athens

20 June 2008

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Athens, Greece — A large forest fire in the hills north of Athens wasbrought under control late Friday after destroying two homes, authorities said.

The area of forest and the cause of the blaze were not immediately clear.

The fire broke out shortly before 3 p.m. (1200 GMT) Friday near the coastalresort of AgiiApostoli, 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Athens. The area isscattered with holiday homes.

A total of 116 firefighters joined in the battle to extinguish the blaze,assisted by eight water-dropping aircraft and four helicopters, 28 fire enginesand 15 water trucks.

Fire brigade officials said the blaze did not harm the nearby Amphiaraeionarchaeological site, an important 5th century B.C. healing center.

High temperatures over the past few days have left Greek forests _ mostlyconsisting of highly combustible pines _ tinder dry. Over the past 24hours, firefighters have dealt with 61 forest fires.

Arson is often suspected, although many fires are started accidentally duringopen-air welding work or by farmers burning stubble in their fields. On Tuesday,officials said sparks from a train’s brakes caused about 15 small blazes alongrailway tracks in central Greece.

A series of massive forest fires in Greece last summer killed 76 people.

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