Flames engulf ancient Amfissa olive grove


Dozens of wildfires erupted across Greece last week in a pattern that alarmingly resembles the destructive blazes that slammed the country nearly a year ago.

The regions of Achaia and Argolis in the Peloponnese, the island of Zakynthos in the Ionian Sea and Mount Athos in the north were among the regions of the country hit by endemic forest fires.

The blaze dealt a blow to other growers who had suffered severe damage in the 2013 blaze. Their decade-long struggle to revive their olive groves was rendered futile with the new disaster.– Panayiotis Delis, local olive producer and volunteer firefighter

In the province of Fokida, in central Greece, a the inferno has torn the oldest and largest continuously cultivated olive grove in the country, consisting of approximately 1.2 million olive trees.

Fanned by strong winds, the fire split into three fronts, leveling large swaths of farmland, including thousands of olive trees. More than 150 firefighters supported by 11 water bomber planes and seven helicopters fought to contain the blaze, the Athens-Macedonian News Agency reported.

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The fire started near the settlement of Sernikaki, the same place as in 2013,” Panayiotis Delis, an olive grower who participated with other local farmers in the operations to save Olive Oil Times, told Olive Oil Times. contain the fire.

There are groves left unattended that are at risk of catching fire,” he added. We had strong winds at the time and the fire spread quickly, but we all mobilized immediately to put out the flames with the firefighters.

There are thousands of centuries-old olive trees in the region; some even remain there for millennia, with hollow trunks with the fire burning inside the tree, making it extremely difficult to extinguish,” Delis continued. A nearby convent was evacuated. However, the olive packing facilities that operate in the area were not threatened by the fire. »

Amfissa fire (Photo: NASA)

The Amfissa olive grove stretches from the town of Amfissa to the coastal town of Itea in the Gulf of Corinth, which separates the Peloponnese peninsula from western mainland Greece.

The grove consists mainly of trees of edible olive varieties, including Konservolia Amfissis, certified local Protected Designation of Origin, which produces large, round, fleshy olive drupes that can stay in brine for a long time without degrading.

The cultivation of olive trees in the region is mainly favored by the warm and relatively dry microclimate, which suppresses any serious manifestation of the olive fly, a serious pest.

The olive grove of Amfissa is characteristic of the landscape of Delphi, where stands the homonymous archaeological site of the Temple and Oracle of Apollo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.

According to the European Union’s Copernicus emergency management system, the the fire has consumed a total of 1,127 hectares in the expanded area.


View of the Amfissa olive grove (Photo: Dennis Jarvis via Wikimedia Commons)

Local officials estimated that around 30,000 to 40,000,000 olive trees in the Amfissa olive grove were damaged or turned to ash.

There are a few small fires still burning which will soon be extinguished,” said Panayiotis Tagkalis, the mayor of Delphi. However, the wounds of another fire that hit our traditional olive grove will remain unhealed.

Previously, Amfissa’s olive groves burned down in 2013 when a fire ravaged 4,000 hectares of land and destroyed 50,000 olive trees.

Delis shared a difficult situation for many local farmers who depend solely on olive production for their income.

Agriculture in our region is almost exclusively olive-based,” he said. My olive trees near the village of Chrisso were unaffected, but the fire dealt a blow to other growers who suffered severe damage in the 2013 fire. Their ten-year struggle to revive their olive groves have been rendered useless with the new disaster.

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