Wildfires burn through Greece for seventh day as blazes spread in Italy, US and Siberia

Christos and his friend are doing what they can to save their village but he believes climate change is already changing their lives, ITV News Midlands Correspondent Ben Chapman reports

Wildfires in Greece have burned for the seventh day as ferocious blazes spread through countries like Italy, Siberia and the United States.

On Monday, firefighters and residents on the island of Evia fought to save what they could from flames that have decimated vast tracts of pristine forest, destroyed homes and sent thousands fleeing.

The fire, which began on August 3, is the most severe of dozens that have broken out across Greece in the past week, after the country was baked by its worst heat wave in three decades.

Smoke from the wildfire spreads over the statue of Poseidon, ancient Greek God of the sea, at Pefki village on Evia island. Credit: AP

The heat, coming during a particularly hot summer, has turned Greece’s forests, including large areas of easily flammable pine trees, into bone-dry tinderboxes.

The wildfires have stretched Greece’s firefighting capabilities to the limit. More than 20 countries in Europe and the Middle East responded to a request for resources, sending planes, helicopters, vehicles and manpower.

“We were completely forsaken. There were no fire brigades, there were no vehicles, nothing!” David Angelou said, who had been on Evia in the seaside village of Pefki on Sunday night after leaving the island by ferry to the mainland harbour of Arkitsa.

Wildfires burning in Greece can be seen from space. Credit: EU Copernicus

“You could feel the enormous heat, there was also a lot of smoke. You could see the sun, a red ball, and then, nothing else around,” he said.

Athens, which has had temperatures into the forties, has become the first city in Europe to appoint a dedicated heat officer.

Eleni Myrivili, Athens chief heat officer, head a stark warning: "If we don't manage to really mitigate CO2 emissions globally and if we're not brave, the politicians are not brave, maybe cities like Athens that have managed to survive for centuries might be uninhabited in the future."

Wildfires were also burning in southern Italy. On Sunday, hundreds of people were evacuated from homes, hotels and campsites as a wildfire threatened the Italian holiday resort of Campomarino Lido.

Over 400 people fled, with photos released by the Italian firefighters showing huge flames and thick smoke engulfing the area.

In Turkey, massive fires have raged for 13 days. Firefighters were still trying to extinguish blazes in two locations in the southwestern coastal province of Mugla. “The situation is improving,” Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said on Sunday. “It is too soon to say the fires are under control, but we are reaching that point.”

Meanwhile, authorities in Russia have started to evacuate two villages in a vast region of Siberia where 155 active forest fires burned on Sunday.

A dozen villages in northeastern Siberia’s Sakha-Yakutia republic were threatened by the fires, according to the regional taskforce dealing with the emergency.

A firefighter stands at the scene of forest fire near Kyuyorelyakh village at Gorny Ulus area west of Yakutsk, in Russia on Saturday. Credit: AP

Local authorities were moving the residents of two villages, Kalvitsa and Kharyyalakh, to other inhabited areas as crews totalling 3,600 people worked to contain about half of the blazes.

On Saturday, flames destroyed 31 houses and eight maintenance buildings in another village, Byas-Kuel, and about 400 residents were evacuated, local officials said.

In the US, thick smoke that held down winds and temperatures began to clear from the scenic forestlands of Northern California.

Firefighters battling the largest single wildfire in state history have therefore braced for a return of fire-friendly weather.

California Governor Gavin Newsom walks over debris at the Greenville Post Office, which was destroyed by the Dixie Fire, on Saturday. Credit: AP

The winds weren’t expected to reach the ferocious speeds that helped the Dixie Fire explode in size last week. But they were nonetheless concerning for firefighters working in unprecedented conditions to protect thousands of threatened homes. Fuelled by strong winds and bone-dry vegetation, the fire incinerated much of Greenville on Wednesday and Thursday, destroying 370 homes and structures and threatening nearly 14,000 buildings in the northern Sierra Nevada.