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Dadia forest fire damage too early to assess, though hopes remain; Rodopi fire situation improved

Greek and foreign firefighters and volunteers, along with land and air assistance, battled for a sixth day to contain and put out the large fire in the natural habitat of the Dadia Forest, in NE Greece, on Thursday.

The forest has suffered extensive damage and it is feared that members of the Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus) that live in the forest along with another 35 species of birds of prey will be greatly affected. The smoke that has covered the area has made assessment of the damage impossible.

Yet, one of the Organisation of Natural Environment and Climate Change directors, Dionyssia Hatzilakou, said hope is not lost. “As we did last year too, after receiving satellite images and assessing them, we finally saw that the area burnt by the 2022 fire contained within it pockets of unburnt forestland, healthy parts of the forest, and half the trees had not been burnt. In addition, last year we began a study of restoration focused on fire prevention, based on last year’s fire, and the experience we acquired from that will be used in this case as well.”

Evros Region Director of Forests Petros Anthopoulos, who has been travelling in the forest to oversee firefighting efforts, said, “In all, as a prefecture, we have 600,000 stremmas (60,000 hectares) of forestland. At this time, the fire is developing in a section of Dadia, and efforts are focusing on preventing it from spreading further north, where there is a healthy section of the forest. The fire started at Melia and spread to surrounding areas before crossing under Egnatia Odos and spreading into Rodopi, at the borders of the prefecture.”

Some of the fires are burning in steep gorges and are difficult to access, where Canadair airplanes and Erickson helicopters taking off from the Alexandroupolis airport have been of help.

At noon on Thursday, Albanian firefighters who arrived with five fire trucks relieved their colleagues from Romania, while firefighters from the Czech Republic surveyed the area to organize their operations in the coming days.

The wind velocity has dropped compared to previous days, but still continues to feed the fires, which also present rekindlings.

Mayor of Soufli Planagiotis Kalakikos referred to the forest’s role as a source of living for several professions in the area – woodworkers, beekeepers, and tourism professionals – and said, “In the last decade, we have seen a drop of 22% in demographics, and obviously the intensity of natural disasters, besides damaging the environment, affects the local economy. The fire will be put out, but we must also see to the day after also.”

Rodopi prefecture

The situation with the fires burning since Monday in Rodopi prefecture, west of Evros, improved by Thursday evening, regional officials said.

“The fire abated due to last night’s massive operation by the Fire Brigade, using ground forces and helicopters, Deputy Regional Prefect of Rodopi Nikos Tsalikidis told Athens-Macedonian News Agency.

He added that several other fire fronts are under control: Kasitterra, at Maronia-Sapes, a the borders with the Evros prefecture, and at Gratini in Komotini municipality, where rekindlings occurred in the area of Kerassia, at Mt. Papikio.

An emergency state of civil protection has been declared in the townships of Gratini, Stylario, and Sidirades in the Komotini prefecture, by decision of Civil Protection Secretary General Vassilis Papageorgiou.