20240629 athens
A firefighting helicopter drops water as a wildfire burns on Mount Parnitha. Image Credit: Reuters

Athens: A wildfire ignited Saturday afternoon in a forest area north of Athens, amid heightened fire risk across six Greek regions.

Forty wildfires have erupted since dawn across the country with wind speeds exceeding 100 kilometres (62 miles) per hour, according to fire brigade sources.

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"In general, the conditions that prevail are difficult and dangerous," Fire Department spokesperson Vasilis Vathrakogiannis told an emergency press briefing on Saturday.

Accustomed to scorching summers, Greece faces a tough wildfire season after its warmest winter and earliest heatwave on record, with temperatures hitting 440C (1110F).

Strong winds and numerous high-voltage pylons in the area of Mount Parnitha - known as "the lungs of Athens" - are impeding the use of firefighting aircraft.

Reinforcements from the regions of Thessaly, Epirus, and Central Macedonia, as well as volunteer firefighters, are helping to tackle the forest fires.

Strong winds are pushing the flames towards previously burned areas of Mount Parnitha, away from residential zones.

The winds have also carried smoke into the centre of Athens.

A message was sent to people in nearby areas via the emergency number 112 to be on standby due to the fire.

The Fire Danger Forecast Map issued for Sunday by the Civil Protection Ministry predicts a very high risk of fire (category 4) for Attica, the Peloponnese, Crete, the North and South Aegean Regions, and Central Greece.

Another fire started about 20 kilometres northwest of Athens in the area of Lakka Katsari on Saturday afternoon, while authorities successfully controlled a fire in the southeastern town of Keratea, which had led to the evacuation of two villages.

Last year, a fierce two-week heatwave was followed by devastating wildfires in which 20 people died.

The flames consumed nearly 175,000 hectares (432,000 acres) of forest and farmland, according to the National Observatory of Athens.