ATHENS - Reuters
Residents are evacuated by firemen as a forest fire burn the area near the city of Patras, some 200 kilometers southwest of Athens, on July 18. AFP photo
A wildfire swept through forests near Athens today, forcing residents to use garden hoses and tree branches to keep the flames away from their homes.
The blaze, fanned by strong winds, charred the roofs of five houses in one of the Greek
capital's suburbs and forced people to evacuate their homes, said fire service officials, though there were no reports of injuries.
"It's burning very close to residential areas and the winds are strong," said a fire brigade official. "We are doing everything to contain it."
Greece regularly faces wildfires during its dry summer months. But any large outbreak this year could pose a particular challenge for Greece's debt-ridden government, which is struggling to cut spending and pull the country out of an economic crisis.
Shortly after being appointed in June, the country's Citizen Protection minister Nikos Dendias said Greece
was not ready for the forest fire season and faced a shortage of operational aircraft.
The government has already asked for water-bombing aircraft from Spain and Italy to help control the wildfires.
Greeks still vividly recall devastating wildfires in 2007 that killed 65 people, scorched thousands of hectares of forest and farmland, destroyed villages and threatened archaeological sites.
Dozens of firefighters with 35 fire engines, five aircraft and two helicopters battled the flames on Thursday.
Another wildfire, in the southern Peloponnese, raged unchecked for a second day though the flames appeared to be receding, officials said.