News of Kefalonia
2007 Summer Fires on Kefalonia
How they effected our environment, economy
and life style.
What must be done to prevent this tragedy
Will it be done?
Help your ancestor's homeland remain
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summer of 2007 will definitely go down in Greek history as one of the worst for
wild fires. The statement made by many people is that
Half of Greece burned in the Summer of 2007.
Actually, 2% of the forest land of Greece was destroyed, in one
areas most effected by the fires, in order by greatest destruction, were the
Peloponnese and Evia. However, since
Kefalonian Roots is dedicated to the island of Kefalonia, this
article will discuss the fires on the island, especially those
in the municipality of Eliou-Pronnou, which was most severely effected.
Fires burned areas of Kefalonia throughout the summer,
destroying forests; grazing land; farms, crops - vineyards, vegetables,
fruits and olive trees; animals - sheep, goats and chickens; farmers' storage
buildings and homes. They broke out all over the island, but most
ferociously in Eliou-Pronnou, on the southeastern peninsula. The villages
effected by the fires, in order from south to north, were Markopoulo; Kremmidi
and on toward Katelios, Razakli and Skala; Pastra; St. George; Kapandriti;
Asprogerakas and Annitata. See Political Map,
municipality 4. Photo Album
The residents of the area state that during the week of July
23rd, fires were breaking out continuously; but on the 25th of July, the "big
fire" broke out in St George. The temperature on that Wednesday was 39-40
C ~ 101-102 F, and the winds were very high. Most of the areas
engulfed in the flames were hills and mountains, with the flames moving in all
directions as the winds changed frequently, causing updrafts and downdrafts.
Photo Album - 3-4
Driving through the area after the fire, one can sense the
fear and horror, which must have griped of the residents. Rounding each curve in
the road, one sees, on the left and right, trees and
bushes standing as sculptures of charcoal; huge burnt areas
of hillsides running right to the houses of the villages and some houses
splotched with black soot from the fire. Standing on the road in the
village and looking up the hillside, one can feel a rush of adrenalin just from
the thought of seeing the fire's huge tongues lashing out down the hillside
toward a home - the place where a family's very life had its center - shelter,
clothing, food, comfort, loved ones, memories - a base for existence.
Being there, and seeing the destruction, one wonders how so many of the houses
were left untouched! Then one realizes that it was because everyone fought
the fire with all his strength, to save his home and farm. Photo
Album - 5-11
It is not as though each village has its own fire department.
During the summer months, there are fire trucks parked on the roads of
Kefalonia, but at great distances from each other. If a fire breaks out,
the truck closest to the area rushes to begin the fight; but if it is a huge
fire, trucks must come from Argostoli and other regions of the island, which
could be from to 16-36 kilometers and more.
In isolated areas in the
mountains, where there are few, if any roads, the residents must wait for fire
planes to arrive. Kefalonia has two fire planes of its own, however, on
the 25 of July, there was also a fire raging in Aigio, in the Peloponnese, and
the planes of Kefalonia were called to fight the fire there. During
the fire in Kefalonia, which lasted about 2 1/2 days, there was also an
earthquake, not a strong one, but one strong enough to frighten people,
especially those who were already threatened by wild fires. Finally, on
Thursday afternoon, the fire planes arrived, and they gave great assistance in
fighting the fire. Photo Album
Although, in some areas of Greece there were reports
that the fire equipment was unusable, that fire hoses had many holes;
the residents of Kefalonia said that they did not hear of this problem,
and that the firemen worked very hard and that their equipment, although not the
most up to date, did work efficiently.
Due to the fire, the residents were without electricity, water
- which is distributed by electrical pumps, and telephone service for
three days. In cases of wild fires, the electricity is turned off as a
The residents of course want to know how such a fire, and how
so many smaller fires over a large area could have started in such a short
period of time. They understand that, with high temperatures and high
winds, pieces of burning trees can be carried over a distance, but some fires
started with in a very short period of time and at a good distance from each
other. The residents heard every reason imaginable for the cause of the
fires, but never heard the precise reason. One resident said, the only reason that was not
given, was that an extraterrestrial came and lit it.
Residents stated that the people who lost crops and livestock
have been given financial assistance from the government. But that other
assistance, which was pledged, has not arrived.
The most interesting phenomenon which can be seen in this
area of Elliou-Pronnou is that of oases of greenery - oases of plants, some very
tiny and others quite large. Amongst the burnt and charred trees and
scrubs, one sees very tiny plants and along the hill sides large areas of trees
and a variety of plants. It can be seen that Mother Nature does not
allow for Total Destruction. These plants will grow and slowly the
area will become full of life again. However, for humans who are over 40,
who have grown up on lusciously green Kefalonia, the re-growth
will not be fast enough. Photo Album
Kefalonia is very rocky, and therefore huge mudslides are not
likely to happen in the areas effected by the fires. However, with the
loss of trees, scrubs and other forms of vegetation, of which their roots
hold the soil and the rocks in place, there is a possibility of land slides and
rock slides in times of bad storms and earthquakes. Kefalonia is in an
active earthquake region. Although there are not very strong
earthquakes occurring at small intervals of time, there is a constant movement
of the plates, causing small earthquakes to occur continuously. These
quakes are so small that the residents don't sense most of them, but their
effect on the soil and rocks is continuous. Little by little they shake
soil lose and away from the rocks or cause a split to slowly deepen or widen in rocks and boulders.
This continuous action weakens the soil and rocks, and makes it possible for
landslides and rockslides during stronger earthquakes, and bad storms.
For this reason alone, Kefalonians must work together to organize ways
of preventing fires, and extinguishing them quickly when they do
occur. Photo Album - 19
Unfortunately, in Greece some fires are started on
purpose; some by people who want land for grazing their animals and others who
want forest land for development. However, fires are also started by the
high temperatures; absolutely cloudless skies that allow the sun's rays to heat
natural and man made debris in the forests to very high temperatures; and by
people carelessly burning trash or throwing a cigarette butt out of the
car window and on the ground. If everyone were more responsible for their actions,
there would definitely be fewer fires.
Another factor, which leads to the spread of wild fires, is
that there is no developed forest surveillance and communication system.
Greece is in a high risk area for fires due to the climate and type of plant
life. Because of these natural factors, the inhabitants must work to
organize a system for surveillance, communication and fire prevention. The
importance of personal responsibility for one's actions must be stressed more in
the schools from grade 1 thru 12, more
posters must be displayed and much more information circulated in the
communities throughout the year. A national fire prevention program must
be developed, organized, put into effect, maintained and enforced!
would like to stress the ideas that fire destroys the beauty, the economy and
the life of Kefalonia and that to maintain our environment, economy and life
style, we must be alert to the problems at hand, and have the will,
the determination and the keffy to organize systems to prevent fires in the
future. We have seven (7) months to think, organize, mobilize and
work, - everyone together - to prevent such damage from occurring again in the Fire Season of
We want the fire season of 2008 to
pass without loss of life to plants, animals or humans, and without destruction
to the environment or communities.
If any of our readers have ideas on how to organize
community fire prevention programs for schools - grades 1-12, and
for public organizations and adult groups, please send your ideas to:
Your assistance would be greatly appreciated.
Kefalonian Roots wishes to thank the
residents of Eliou-Pronou for their assistance in making this article possible.
A special thank you goes to Aliki Kousoubri and Anna Maria Seriatou.
||We must work to prevent this from happening again!