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Firefighters focusing on preventing Vilia wildfire front from spreading to Megara plain

The fire raging out of control in the region of Vilia, NW of Athens, has already burned homes and storage buildings that lay outside of villages and in the forest, as of Thursday afternoon, but evacuated villages appear safe for the time being.

The burned buildings lie in a region encompassed by Inoi, Karaouli, Agios Georgios, Paleohori and Titan, where firefighters tried through the night to prevent the approach of the flames.

Although the fire as of Thursday evening did not appear to threaten the villages themselves, and the situation is much improved, all forces are focused on the large front that is burning Mt. Pateras and is heading to the army practice range in Kandili, the region of Megara, where NNE winds are fanning it.

Firefighters were doing their best on Thursday evening to prevent the wildfire, which broke out on Monday, from reaching the valley of Megara. Winds have dropped to 2 and 3 on the Beaufort scale, and the forces battling it are trying to direct it to a rocky area without plants, in order to control it better.

Right now, there are 461 firefighters, including 9 ground teams, 166 fire trucks, and assistance by the RescEU program, which also includes 143 firefighters with 46 fire trucks. In addition, from the start of the day there were 22 helicopters, including 3 from the Greek Army, 2 from Russia and 1 from the UAE, along with 11 airplanes, including the Beriev-200. On Thursday evening and until sunset, 13 helicopters and 6 airplanes were operating in the area west of Athens.

Additionally, the Fire Brigade has provided drones to check the fire and the mobile operations center Olympos. Also assisting are the Greek Army with 10 ground teams and heavy machinery, volunteer firefighters, and local and regional water trucks and earth machinery.

The Fire Brigade also said that from Wednesday (19:00) to the same time on Thursday (Aug. 18-19), there were 55 new wildfires, most of which were put out early.

Chrisochoidis briefing

The greater part of the wildfire in West Attica has been delimited, but is still not under full control, Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chrisochoidis said on Thursday night.

“Most of the fire’s fronts have been extinguished,” he said.

During a live briefing from the Fire Brigade’s Operations Center, Chrisochoidis acknowledged the role of firefighters, volunteers and staff, and made special mention of foreign assistance, particularly the Polish and Romanian firefighters, in the Vilia region and elsewhere. Romania has also volunteered a ground team with fire trucks, “which Greece accepted gratefully,” he said.

At this time, there are 461 firefighters and ground teams at the region, with 166 fire trucks and Fire Brigade drones. The army has supplied 3 helicopters and 92 officers and soldiers, who are assisting the ground teams. In addition, local and regional authorities have provided a large number of water trucks and heavy equipment, he said, while noting the contribution of pilots. Before sunset, assistance by air consisted of 33 aircraft operating periodically, including the Berivev from Russia.

Throughout Greece, firefighters were managing a total of 94 forest fires on Thursday, he said, while 55 new fires broke out in the last 24 hours.

Police, the army and the Fire Brigade are on 24-hour patrols in city parks, rural areas and forests on the mainland and on islands for at least the next 7 days to deal with any fires breaking out, the minister said, and called on the public to be “fully vigilant and on alert” as winds are expected to become stronger and fan fires in the next few days.

From August 3, when the first large wildfires broke out, to Thursday (Aug. 19), Chrisochoidis said, police has arrested 25 individuals and brought in for questioning another 188 on suspicion of arson.

The Fire Brigade’s arson division has also arrested 28 people for 24 fires since August 5; of these, 13 are accused of intentional arson and 3 for serial arson. Three have already been sentenced to jail (5 years without suspension, 2 years, and 18 months).