No Respite in Greece as Wildfires Incinerate Ancient Olive Groves in Makri

Wildfires continue to wreak havoc in rural Greece, partially destroying the traditional Makri olive grove and leaving local producers in despair.
(Photo: Hellenic Fire Service)
By Costas Vasilopoulos
Aug. 29, 2023 15:45 UTC

Greece has seen no respite from the cat­a­strophic wild­fires this sum­mer.

After the dev­as­tat­ing fires of July, a new wave of wild­fires broke out across the coun­try, mainly affect­ing the north­west­ern out­skirts of Athens, includ­ing the Parnitha National Park, the Viotia region in cen­tral Greece and the north­ern regions of Rodopi and Evros.

Our mill remained intact, but the dam­age is incal­cu­la­ble. Our burned cen­te­nar­ian Makri trees can­not be replaced in any way.- Dimitris Adamidis, owner, Konos

The fires have trag­i­cally claimed human lives and destroyed liveli­hoods, forc­ing hun­dreds of peo­ple to flee their homes in the impacted areas. 

In Evros, bor­der­ing Turkey, res­cuers found 18 burned bod­ies near the Dadia for­est, believed to be migrants try­ing to cross Greece.

See Also:Olive Growers on Evia Island Strive to Revive Fire-Damaged Groves

Meteorologists had warned of dan­ger­ous hot-dry-windy (HDW) con­di­tions pre­vail­ing over much of the coun­try from August 20th. The HDW index deter­mines which days the atmos­pheric con­di­tions can make a wild­fire dif­fi­cult to con­trol.

In my 32 years of ser­vice, I have never expe­ri­enced sim­i­lar extreme con­di­tions,” Yiorgos Pournaras, head of the Greek fire ser­vice, told a press brief­ing.

However, accord­ing to a report in the New York Times, the coun­try has failed to imple­ment ade­quate pre­ven­tive mea­sures against wild­fires, such as dig­ging fire­breaks and clear­ing brush and grasses from forests.

In north­east­ern Greece, a fire that erupted near the port city of Alexandroupolis has already rav­aged more than 7,500 hectares of for­est land and crops, also threat­en­ing the nearby set­tle­ments of Makri, Dikella and Agia Paraskevi.

Fanned by strong winds, the flames quickly engulfed the tra­di­tional Makri olive grove, a con­tin­u­ously cul­ti­vated area com­pris­ing more than 200,000 trees of the indige­nous Makri vari­ety, some of which are thou­sands of years old.

As the fire advanced, con­sum­ing olive trees, equip­ment and build­ings, local olive oil pro­duc­ers were left in despair.

The fire tore right through our groves,” Dimitris Adamidis, owner of the local Konos com­pany, told Olive Oil Times.

Many of our olive trees and part of our ware­houses and equip­ment were destroyed,” Adamidis con­tin­ued. Our mill remained intact, but the dam­age is incal­cu­la­ble. Our burned cen­te­nar­ian Makri trees can­not be replaced in any way.”

Other pro­duc­ers in the area of Makri nar­rowly escaped the rag­ing flames.

The whole moun­tain was rav­aged,” said Valia Kellidou of Kyklopas. “[Our mill] would have burned if the blaze came down toward the sea. We oper­ated all our wells and fought the flames for three days.”

Kelidou also noted that an esti­mate of the dam­age caused to the area’s olive trees is impos­si­ble at the moment.

Makri is the north­ern­most area of Greece where olive trees are cul­ti­vated, with a micro­cli­mate that gives rel­a­tively dry sum­mers and cold win­ters.

The area pro­duces the Protected Designation of Origin-cer­ti­fied Makri olive oil, with yields rang­ing from 1,000 to 3,000 tons each sea­son.

According to the European Climate Change Service Copernicus, the wild­fire in north­east­ern Greece is the largest recorded on European soil in years, hav­ing already burned more than 75,000 hectares.

The over­all toll of wild­fires in Greece this year is excep­tion­ally high: around 128,000 hectares of land have been burned since the begin­ning of 2023, a mas­sive 195 per­cent more than the aver­age area destroyed by fires in the coun­try each year.


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