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Dark clouds over Athens

Analysis: This week's fires in Greece were bad. But it's only going to get worse.

Greece isn’t the only European country to have been hit hard by forest fires this year. In Spain, 185,000 acres have already burned, more than twice what went up in flames during the whole of last year. Italy, France and Portugal have also experienced major fires in recent months.

In Athens, some scientists fear the loss of forest areas to recent fires could also lead to an increase in the local temperature.

Forests can help lower temperatures in the immediate area, but in recent years, fires have devastated many of the forested areas around the city. The blazes over the last few days have burned much of what was left. Mount Penteli, which looms over the city and has been hit repeated by fires in recent years, was struck once again, while the pine forests near the town of Marathon were virtually wiped out. And as the sun set Monday evening, another fire raged on Mount Kitheronas, on Greece’s western coast near the resort of Porto Germeno.

As one Greek paper, the leftist daily Eleftherotypia, declared: “Disorganization, indifference, criminal negligence give the final blow to Attica: It’s finished.” Palahi says Greece and other countries in the region are in caught in a destructive cycle where they respond to fires by spending more on fire fighting, especially buying expensive planes and helicopters. But in order to address the growing problem, he said, more needs to be done to prevent fires. But that requires planning and investment.

“Policymakers very often are looking for short-term results,” he said. “Prevention takes 10, 15, even 20 years.”