Greece Braces for Severe Wildfire Season Amid Containment Concerns

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As the scorching summer months approach, Greece finds itself on high alert, facing an imminent threat of wildfires that outpace efforts to contain them. Last July, firefighters rushed to extinguish a blaze ravaging a pine forest on the island of Rhodes, only to encounter towering flames engulfing the night sky.

Hindered by dense vegetation obstructing access, the volunteers struggled to contain the inferno, which swiftly consumed vast swathes of the  island, prompting the evacuation of 19,000 residents – one of the largest evacuation operations in Greece's history.

Firefighter Nikos Karpathakis, reflecting on the challenges faced during the Rhodes blaze, highlighted the formidable obstacles posed by overgrown forests left uncleared for over a decade. "Have you ever tried walking through a forest that has not been cleared for more than 10 years? It's so difficult," he said.

As Greece braces for yet another scorching summer amidst escalating climate change-induced wildfires across southern Europe, the country has devised a new strategy to mitigate the devastation. However, experts and firefighters warn that the current approach falls short of addressing critical planning and prevention deficiencies.

Theodore Giannaros, a fire meteorologist at the National Observatory of Athens, lamented Greece's adherence to a fire suppression doctrine, advocating instead for an integrated fire management strategy. "We are clinging to a doctrine which insists on fire suppression instead of adopting an integrated fire management strategy," stated Mr Giannaros.

With Greece experiencing its warmest winter on record, conditions have become increasingly favourable for wildfires, imperiling vital agricultural resources, residential areas, and the lucrative tourism sector.

Despite Greece's implementation of a multi-billion-euro plan to acquire firefighting equipment and bolster infrastructure, concerns persist regarding the adequacy of these measures. The cleared forest areas represent a mere fraction of Greece's extensive woodland, and the delivery of essential firefighting resources may be delayed by several years.

(Source: Reuters)

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