Wildfire tears through forest near Athens, homes damaged

A wildfire has swept through a mountainous pine forest north of Greece's capital

A wildfire north of Athens swept through a mountainous pine forest Tuesday, seriously damaging at least a dozen homes and burning cars before being contained by an intense firefighting deployment, officials said.

The blaze prompted authorities to evacuate homes around the Stamata area, 30 kilometers (18 miles) northeast of the capital, while the flames sent smoke over Athens limiting visibility in parts of the city.

Eight water-dropping planes and 12 helicopters were being used Tuesday to fight the blaze, joined by more than 300 firefighters on the ground.

“It was a difficult and dangerous fire,” Civil Protection chief Nikos Hardalias said.

“Fire crews had to operate between inhabited areas and between homes ... The fire is currently receding, but is still burning at several different sites.”

A leased Russian Be-200ES firefighting plane was used in the effort Tuesday as well as two Greek army helicopters fitted with water-dropping buckets.