Hundreds of firefighters backed by falling flames were fighting a large forest fire burning for the second day on Tuesday, prompting the evacuation of a nursing home and several villages northwest of Athens.
The fire in the Vilia area, which was burning through dense forest, started on Monday, shortly after another forest fire broke out in the southeast of the Greek capital, in the Keratea area. The two were the most severe of dozens of wildfires that broke out that day across the country, the fire department said.
Hundreds of wildfires have burned across Greece this month, fueled by the country’s longest and most severe heat wave in decades that left its forests and scrublands dry.
Arson is suspected to be the cause of some. On Tuesday, police announced that they had arrested two people on suspicion of setting two fires, both of which were quickly extinguished.
The first was a 54-year-old Greek man who allegedly used a lighter to set fire to papers and dried vegetation in bushes on the outskirts of a town west of Athens on Sunday. The man left the scene on foot and was stopped by a passing police patrol, authorities said.
The second case involved a 29-year-old foreign woman, whose nationality was not disclosed. She is accused of putting dry leaves on the ground near a tree in a central square in Athens. Police in the area extinguished the flames and arrested the woman.
Intense heat and forest fires have also hit other Mediterranean countries in recent weeks, with fires killing at least 75 people in Algeria and 16 in Turkey. Italy has also witnessed several fire-related deaths. Worsening drought and heat have also sparked wildfires this summer in the western United States and the Siberia region of northern Russia.
Greece’s fire department said 330 firefighters with 115 vehicles were fighting the Vilia fire on Tuesday, with air support provided by five water-dropping planes and six helicopters. The firefighters include 143 from Poland, sent to the country as part of a major deployment of foreign assistance from European and Middle Eastern countries as Greece has struggled to contain massive forest fires for the past two weeks.
Firefighters were also operating to secure the boundaries of major fires in a national park on the northern outskirts of Athens and the island of Evia that erupted in early August. Others, including 40 Austrian firefighters, were fighting two major fires in Greece’s southern Peloponnese region.
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