The Evros aftermath in EDJNet Wildfires in Europe investigation

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Greece responded to the Evros wildfires by addressing climate change and illegal migration as primary causes. However, analyses revealed deficiencies in disaster prevention, while FIRE-RES experts point out the need to invest more in anticipating and managing wildfires in the article “Fires in Greece: if migrants become scapegoats“, part of the Wildfires in Europe investigation.

Four months after the unprecedented Evros wildfires, the Greek government responded to the catastrophe attributing blame to climate change and illegal migration. However, post-fire analyses shifted the focus to a dual challenge: deficiencies in state mechanisms for disaster prevention and management and insufficient evidence to support allegations of intentional arson by migrants. The situation took a dark turn as local individuals were arrested for the kidnapping of 13 illegal migrants during the wildfires.

While prosecutors advocated dropping arson-related charges, the three locals remained in custody awaiting trial. The article “Fires in Greece: if migrants become scapegoats“, authored by Mary Drosopoulos and published on OBCT Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso, delves into the aftermath of the disaster between divisive narratives, suppression-based approaches to firefighting and the voices of the scientific community.

Wildfire in the Evros region - © Eleni Saitanidi/Shutterstock

Voices within the scientific community stressed the importance of learning from past mistakes and investing more in the prevention and management of wildfires. Dr. Palaiologos Palaiologou, in the Greek FIRE-RES team of experts, emphasized the need for efficient wildfire prevention, including citizen preparedness, learning from previous mistakes, leveraging scientific knowledge, and employing trained staff.

He urged a shift away from conspiracy theories, advocating informed fuel management programs and indirect firefighting tactics like backfires: “Instead of searching for conspiracy theories or investing great amounts in fire suppression – mostly with aerial means – the state should consider whether it is taking the necessary steps to efficiently prevent and manage extreme wildfires through informed fuel management programmes implemented at the right scale and widespread use of indirect firefighting tactics, such as backfires”. In conclusion, the complexity of challenges in Evros, urges a holistic approach that prioritizes prevention and efficient management while cautioning against divisive narratives and emphasizing the collaborative efforts necessary for sustainable solutions.

Read the full article “Fires in Greece: if migrants become scapegoats” and discover the FIRE-RES-backed Wildfires in Europe investigation here.

Author: Beatrice Bellavia (Euromontana).