Firefighters battle forest blaze near Athens suburbs

At least three cars were burned out during the fire which scorched forests at the base of Mount Penteli north of Athens. PHOTO: AFP

ATHENS (AFP) - A fire scorched forests at the base of Mount Penteli north of Athens, threatening suburbs but without causing casualties, said firefighters and the local authorities.

Four people were arrested as part of an investigation to determine the cause of the fire, Greece's Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said on state television ERT on Tuesday (July 27), without giving more detail.

The fire, which broke out late in the morning and was still burning on Tuesday afternoon, had damaged homes, said Mr Yannis Kalafatelis, mayor of Dionysos, one of the areas threatened by the blaze.

"The front of the fire is long and it is not yet over," he added on public television ERT.

"We were so scared," local resident Loukia Mpatsola told Agence France-Presse. "The fire broke out suddenly and in a half-hour we could see flames beside the house. Fortunately, the authorities warned us."

Another resident, Ms Maria Sofou, said: "It's a disaster, all these burnt trees. It's unbelievable, setting a fire in a residential zone."

The fire was still not under control at the end of the afternoon, according to firefighters. But Mr Hardalias said "the situation has improved".

A total of 310 firefighters were mobilised, backed by 10 helicopters and eight firefighting planes, said the fire service, but strong winds were complicating operations.

Volunteers also joined the fight against the blaze. Firefighter spokesman Vassilis Vathrakoyannis told Skai TV: "Nobody is in danger."

Smoke was billowing from the roofs of two houses and at least three cars had been burned out, an AFP photographer said.

ERT public television interrupted its programming for live coverage of the fire, the fumes of which reached central Athens, about 30km away where temperatures hovered at 38 deg C on Tuesday.

Forest fires regularly erupt in Greece during the summer months, including around Mount Penteli.

In July 2018, 102 people died when a fire fed by winds off the mountain raced through the coastal town of Mati, near Athens, in the country's worst-ever toll from a forest inferno.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.