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Deadly forest fires in Attica Region, Greece

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Presentation at the Environmental Humanities Training School

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Deadly forest fires in Attica Region, Greece

  1. 1. Deadly forest fires in Attica Region, Greece July 2018 Dr Dimitrios Gkotzos Environmental Humanities Training School 2018 on "Loss, Damage and Mobility in the context of Climate Change" 12-14 December 2018 Naples, Italy
  2. 2. July 23rd 2018, fires in the west and east of Athens • Fires were fanned by gale-force winds • 99 people were confirmed dead in the east coast fires (burned or drowned in the sea) • Deadliest wildfire in Europe since 1900
  3. 3. Combination of several factors • Areas filled with houses, built without planning, with inadequate roads • Houses under highly flammable pine trees, without escape routes • Pressure from the business community in Greece to accelerate the process of "un-declaring" forest land as protected • Extreme weather conditions, and in particular a combination of extreme heat and heavy local winds • Many firefighting forces were distracted to the fire in the west coast that had been started earlier. • Not enough importance given on civil protection and preparation • Police set diversions that sent drivers directly to the path of the fire • Policy response severely affected by EC austerity measures (e.g. 30% of fire engines useless, 25% of Greece’s GDP has been lost = 25% less money for civil protection)
  4. 4. Τhe role of climate change Higher fire risk, longer fire seasons, more frequent large, severe fires Increasing heatwaves Drought Land-use change Although it is not yet possible to attribute a single catastrophic event, like the wildfires, to climate change, we can attribute the increased risk of these kinds of events Mitigating and adapting to the risk Proper forest management Land use planning Developing effective emergency plans in case of extreme weather eventsWhat should we do?