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Greece’s Wildfires and the Future of Natural Disasters

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EVIA, GREECE - AUGUST 8 2021: Flames approach buildings after local evacuated them in the Greek village of Gouves, on August 8, 2021, on the island of Evia, Greece. According to the European Forest Fire Information System more than 100,000 hectares have burned so far in 2021 in Greece, half of them on Evia, Greece's second largest island. (Photo by Ayman Oghanna/Getty Images)

After he received the call, Spyros Diamantis put down his coffee and left the cafe. “Let’s go, kids,” he shouted to his mates sitting outside, seven local lads dressed in T-shirts and the military fatigues they kept after completing national military service. Kamatriades, a village on the Greek island of Evia, is on fire. “They are afraid that it will move downwards,” Spyros said. They clambered onto the back of a battered green pickup truck, and Spyros started the engine. Hurtling down winding roads, through ashen smoke, we drove toward the inferno that has been blazing for a week on the island of Evia, a two-hour drive north of the Greek capital, Athens.

Wildfires are common in Greece. In 2018, high winds drove a fire through Mati, a seaside resort town northeast of Athens, killing 102 people, the highest recorded death toll in a Greek wildfire. I was there, and I remember the promises from authorities that lessons would be learned. Three years later, Greece burns once more. As the country sweats through its worst heatwave in 40 years, the forests that make up nearly a third of the country have become tinderboxes. Thanks to human-caused climate change, fires, like those seen here, will become a familiar sight to many across the globe.

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