Flames Engulf the Ancient Olive Grove of Amfissa

According to initial estimates, 30,000 to 40,000 trees were destroyed in fires that swept through some of the oldest olive groves in Greece.
Photo: Hellenic Fire Service via Facebook
By Costas Vasilopoulos
Jul. 11, 2022 19:57 UTC

Dozens of wild­fires have erupted in Greece in the past week in a pat­tern that alarm­ingly resem­bles the destruc­tive fires that hit the coun­try almost a year ago.

The Achaia and Argolida regions in the Peloponnese, the island of Zakynthos in the Ionian Sea and Mount Athos in the north were among the areas of the coun­try struck by the ram­pant wild­fires.

The fire dealt a major blow to other pro­duc­ers who had suf­fered severe dam­age in the 2013 fire. Their decade-long strug­gle to revive their olive groves has been ren­dered futile with the new dis­as­ter.- Panayiotis Delis, local olive pro­ducer and vol­un­teer fire­fighter

In the province of Fokida in cen­tral Greece, a blaze tore through the country’s old­est and largest con­tin­u­ously cul­ti­vated olive grove com­prised of around 1.2 mil­lion olive trees.

Fanned by strong winds, the fire split into three fronts, raz­ing large swathes of agri­cul­tural land, includ­ing thou­sands of olive trees. More than 150 fire­fight­ers backed by 11 water-bomb­ing air­craft and seven heli­copters bat­tled to con­tain the fire, the Athens-Macedonian News Agency reported.

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The fire broke out near the set­tle­ment of Sernikaki, the same spot as in 2013,” Panayiotis Delis, an olive pro­ducer who par­tic­i­pated with other local farm­ers in the oper­a­tions to hold back the blaze, told Olive Oil Times.

There are some groves left unat­tended there which are prone to catch­ing fire,” he added. We had strong winds at the time, and the fire spread quickly, but we all mobi­lized imme­di­ately to douse the flames along with the fire­fight­ers.”

There are thou­sands of cen­te­nar­ian olive trees in the area; some even stand there for mil­len­nia, with hol­low trunks with the fire burn­ing inside the tree mak­ing it extremely dif­fi­cult to put out,” Delis con­tin­ued. A nearby con­vent was evac­u­ated. However, the olive pack­ag­ing facil­i­ties that oper­ate in the area were not threat­ened by the fire.”


Amfissa fire (Photo: NASA)

The Amfissa olive grove stretches from the city of Amfissa to the coastal town of Itea at the Gulf of Corinth, which sep­a­rates the Peloponnese penin­sula from west­ern main­land Greece.

The grove con­sists mainly of trees of edi­ble olive vari­eties includ­ing the local Protected Designation of Origin-cer­ti­fied Konservolia Amfissis, which pro­duces large and round, fleshy olive dru­pes that can remain in brine for a long time with­out degrad­ing.

Olive cul­ti­va­tion in the area is pri­mar­ily favored by the warm and rel­a­tively dry micro­cli­mate, which sup­presses any severe man­i­fes­ta­tions of the olive fruit fly, a sig­nif­i­cant pest.

The Amfissa olive grove is char­ac­ter­is­tic of the Delphi land­scape, where the homony­mous archae­o­log­i­cal site of the tem­ple and ora­cle of Apollo stand, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.

According to the European Union’s Copernicus Emergency Management System, the fire con­sumed a total of 1,127 hectares in the broader area.


View of the Amfissa olive grove (Photo: Dennis Jarvis via Wikimedia Commons)

Local offi­cials esti­mated that roughly 30,000 to 40,000 thou­sand olive trees of the Amfissa olive grove were dam­aged or turned to ashes.

There are some small fire hotspots still burn­ing that will be soon put out,” said Panayiotis Tagkalis, the mayor of Delphi. However, the wounds from yet another fire that hit our tra­di­tional olive grove will remain unhealed.”

Previously, the Amfissa olive groves burned in 2013 when a blaze rav­aged 4,000 hectares of land and destroyed 50,000 olive trees.

Delis con­veyed a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion for many local farm­ers who depend solely on olive pro­duc­tion for income.

Agriculture in our area is almost exclu­sively olive-based,” he said. My olive trees near the Chrisso vil­lage were not impacted, but the fire dealt a major blow to other pro­duc­ers who had suf­fered severe dam­ages in the 2013 fire. Their decade-long strug­gle to revive their olive groves has been ren­dered futile with the new dis­as­ter.”


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