Pants on fire: Arson and property development in Greece
A couple of weeks ago I posted about camping on the Greek island of Karpathos. The wind there was so strong it blew the tent down, forcing us to move on to a calmer, safer place.
So last week we camped again on Crete in the Viannos area, where winds were comparably gentle – for the first 4-5 days at least. On the last night the winds went “Karpathian”, filling the tents with sand. Again, we moved on.
Just in time too, as the beach we were camping on caught fire, burning all the trees down and forcing the evacuation of three villages.
A farmer who spotted 2 men filming the blaze on their cellphones as his land was consumed, rebuked the pair for not helping put the fire out instead. When the two men insisted they were within their rights, the farmer reportedly shot them (non-fatally) and fled the scene.
Read more on GreekReporter.
Heat waves, coupled with dry conditions and exacerbated by cooking or “party fires” often result in destructive wildfires.
The sickening aspect to these fires (and similar situations exist in other parts of Europe, including Portugal, Spain and Italy) is that property developers take advantage of them to turn protected forestland into resorts and built up tourist spots. A burned down forest is no longer a forest and is therefore “legally” up for grabs. This situation obviously encourages foul play. Can’t build a high-rise hotel on this beach because of its olive and evergreen trees? Pay some stooge to “accidentally” light a fire and then put up a cluster of whitewashed houses and maybe a Hard Rock Café to add a bit of culture to the place.
And this isn’t simply a case of burning down some trees to build a hotel or a luxury housing development. Generations-old livelihoods are lost and people die. There were 84 deaths in a spate of wildfires which raged across Greece in 2007 – 67 deaths in August alone.
In Portugal 23 people died from wildfires in 2003 and in 2009 there were 55 arson convictions. (I don’t know if the convicted arsonists’ pants were on fire when they took the stand.) Portugal’s interior minister claimed that 9 out of 10 fires were set deliberately.
Both Portugal and Greece rely on volunteer fire fighters to battle the blazes.
For more information on the current wildfires in Greece, see this piece on GreekReporter.com.