Greece: Reinforcements sent to fight four fires on Evia island

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek authorities sent reinforcements to firefighters battling four wildfires burning out of control on the Greek island of Evia on Friday, while at least five villages were evacuated.

The fire department sent dozens of reinforcements as well as extra firefighting aircraft to the area. More than 330 firefighters, assisted by eight water-dropping planes, nine helicopters and more than 100 vehicles, were trying to bring the flames under control in central Evia.

One of the blazes broke out early on Thursday afternoon and was burning woodland and agricultural areas, while another two started simultaneously just before midnight on Thursday. The blazes led to five villages being evacuated.

The fire department said a fourth, a forest fire, broke out in the same area on Friday afternoon.

The fires were the largest to have broken out so far this year in Greece, a country where wildfires are common during the hot, dry summer months. Last summer, the country’s deadliest fire killed 101 people in the seaside settlement of Mati outside of Athens, including many who drowned as they tried to swim away from intense heat and smoke engulfing beaches.

An airplane drops water over a fire in the village of Gavalas, on the Greek island of Evia. – AP

For Friday’s blazes, Greek authorities said they had activated the European Union’s Copernicus Emergency Management Service satellite programme to map the affected areas.

Earlier on Friday, the fire department said that a 64-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of starting the first fire that broke out on Thursday by using a naked flame to burn dried weeds near his house.

The man was to appear before a prosecutor in court on Friday.

Burning dried weeds and other such activities outdoors, such as setting campfires, is banned in Greece from May 1 to October 1 as part of measures to prevent forest fires.