Two more people have been arrested on arson charges in Greece after authorities said they started numerous wildfires. More than 164 people have been taken into custody on arson charges since the start of the summer.
One man was arrested on the island of Evia this week for setting fire to dry grass in the Karystos area. The fire department said the man confessed to having set four other fires in the area in July and August.
A second man, who was arrested in the Larissa area of central Greece, also was accused of intentionally setting fire to dry vegetation.
As of Aug. 30, fire department officials had arrested 163 people on fire-related charges—including 118 for negligence and 79 for deliberate arson—since the start of the fire-prevention season, government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis said.
While the negligence may be considered an accident, the 24-plus incidents of arson have police scrambling because one of the fires, considered, the largest in EU history, was deliberate. The arson arrests, some of which included drone footage of the fires being started, have forced European news outlets to backtrack on previous reporting that attributed the fires, without evidence, to “climate change.”
Police and U.S. Military drones have also captured arsonists setting wildfires in other countries, including Italy.
Bene la denuncia del Presidente della Regione Calabria Occhiuto che grazie ad un’operazione di deterrenza con i droni è riuscito a stanare un piromane che aveva già appiccato alcuni incendi. Solo con un accurato controllo del territorio si possono fermare questi criminali. pic.twitter.com/LFR4A8Tl4c
— Antonio Tajani (@Antonio_Tajani) July 26, 2023
Greek officials have blamed the vast majoriity of the summer fires on “human hand”. Vassilis Kikilias, the Greek minister of climate crisis and civil protection, told reporters: “Unfortunately, the majority were ignited by human hand, either by criminal negligence or intent.”
At one point, 60 fires a day were erupting.
“Some … arsonists are setting fires, endangering forests, property, and, above all, human lives,” Kikilias said on Aug. 24. “What is happening is not just unacceptable, but despicable and criminal.”
The official said nine fires were set in the span of four hours on Aug. 24 in the Avlona area in the northern foothills of Mount Parnitha on the northwestern fringes of Athens.
“You are committing a crime against the country,” Mr. Kikilias said. “We will find you. You will be held accountable to justice.”
Later on Aug. 24, police arrested a 45-year-old man on suspicion of arson for allegedly setting at least three fires in the Avlona area. A search of his home revealed kindling, a fire torch gun, and pine needles, police said.
With firefighting forces stretched to the limit, Greece has called for help from other European countries. Germany, Sweden, Croatia, and Cyprus have sent aircraft, while dozens of Romanian, French, Czech, Bulgarian, Albanian, Slovak, and Serb firefighters are helping on the ground.
Firefighters found 18 bodies in a forest on Aug. 22, one on Aug. 21, and another on Aug. 24. The 18 included two boys aged 10 to 15 years. Because no one was reported missing in the area, authorities believe that the victims might have been migrants who recently crossed the border from Turkey.