Friday, 29 August 2008

SkyWatch Friday: fire in the mountains

The middle of the day in Greece is a sacred moment, enshrined in the law as the holy siesta, when not even backgammon can be played in a residential zone. Noise control is usually enforced when the moment calls for it - except in the case of an emergency.

fire hania chaniafire hania chania
(right above our house with a bucket full of sea water - heading towards the fire)
CLICK ON THE PHOTOS TO ENLARGE

On Monday, a helicopter was heard in the hottest hour of the day zooming around above our house. That can only mean one thing: fire, a fire in a field, a very dangerous area for fires to break out, as most fields in Hania (and all of Crete, for that matter) have olive trees planted in them, which catch fire and burn in the space of very little time. Fires more often than not are started by someone, not something: a farmer may be burning dry tree cuttings without ensuring that the fire is extinguished before he leaves the site; someone might be clearing a field on a windy day; an arsonist might want to raze a forest area to the ground so that the state can then declare it a non-forested area (even though it previously was a forest) and building developments can take place (sadly, this occurs frequently).

I didn't pay much attention to the helicopter as this sort of thing happens frequently. It flies above our house and usually disappears beyond our view...

fire hania chaniafire hania chania
(the location of the fire - pouring the bucketful of water over the fire)
CLICK ON THE PHOTOS TO ENLARGE

...but not this time. I was lying on the couch reading a novel, but after hearing it zooming past just above my head (over our roof) for the third time, I decided to investigate. The other curious thing was that we could hear it the whole time in the air, meaning that the fire was close to our house.

The bucket hanging below the helicopter collects water from the sea, and returns to the scene of the fire. It's much quicker than a fire engine, which there are not enough of to deal with the frequency of forest fires as they break out in summer. Helicopters are used in areas that are difficult to access; many olive trees are found on mountainsides with a steep incline. This helicopter passed the area quite a few times when I took the photo, which means that the fire needed a lot of work to be extinguished. Apart from helicopters, Canader planes are also used in fire-fighting.

fire hania chaniafire hania chania
(emptying the bucket over the fire - flying away with an empty bucket)
CLICK ON THE PHOTOS TO ENLARGE

The whole family got out to watch the helicopter, which made its way from the hills it was pouring fire over, to the sea (beyond our view unfortunately) and back to the hills. It did this about then times. I couldn't detect any sign of fire or smoke, so I'm wondering if the fire service was alerted to some smouldering remains, rather than an actual fire. Either that, or this exercise was performed as a drill.

29 comments:

  1. Hopefully it was just a drill! It's sad that people would set the fire on purpose. There's too few forests left!

    Great shots!

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  2. Interesting. We never see things like this around here where I live. Was it a drill or an actual event?

    See my SkyWatch post here > Canon Pixels

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  3. Very interesting photos. It's so sad when forests are devastated, especially if it's by arson.

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  4. I'm sure this fire was real because this isn't a period for drills. Unfortunately!!! It's a period for fighting the flames!

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  5. great catch and love the swf

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  6. Your captures are so dramatic when seen full screen! Must have been exciting to watch, even in siesta time.

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  7. Great photos and a very interesting post.

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  8. Great shot for Skywatch! Mine's up too hope you can drop by.... Happy weekend!

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  9. A Bigger machine than we see here, Russian I think.
    Different sort of pics, very good.

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  10. Good post, being a fireman I like it even more.

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  11. As always, quite interesting! I am glad you are so inquisitive!

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  12. Interesting photos, but sad too.. I enjoyed the pictures and facts about them!

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  13. I lived in Greece for many years, and hardly a summer went by without terrible fires. It saddens me to see through your photos that this annual problem persists. You did a good job documenting the aerial firefighting, though.

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  14. On high fire danger days our noses twitch for any smoke in the air. In your photos there is a white plume on the hill top, a very telling sign of water being poured on a fire. The white cloud is steam rising. When you see that it is a comforting sign of someone taking care of the problem. An active fire has fast rising brounish smoke. The wind was away from you so you were in no danger.

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  15. good captures...

    hope the damage if any was not extensive

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  16. We here moan about the escessive rain, but this post puts in in context. opefully it was a drill and you got some very different images

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  17. Seems so strange that we are pulling out of chilled, wet days (and more this weekend, even though spring is supposed to start on Monday) while you speak of fire! Great pics and interesting comments!

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  18. Wonderful shots! But it is very sad to look at. Have a nice weekend:)

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  19. Very interesting and rare photos for Skywatch. I enlarged them and saw the details.
    It's nice to see the way they deal with the situation promptly.

    Mumbai Skywatch

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  20. What an interesting account of firefighting in Greece! Thanks for sharing.

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  21. I had no idea there was such a custom as the holy siesta. This is really very interesting and I wish Americans practiced something like that. I might slow down the pace of life a bit. I hope you never have to deal with a fire. Have a great weekend.

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  22. It must have been quite scary knowing the fire was fairly close by!

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  23. Another informative post - very rarely they have to this on moorlands near by but I've never actually witnessed it.

    The blue sky on my photo today is several weeks old alas.

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  24. That first photo is a job well done!
    I wonder - would they have performed a drill during siesta?

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  25. Sad but a wonderful reportage!
    We have the same problem in Portugal.

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  26. Very interesting and I hope there wasn't too much damage done by the fire. A good set of photos to remind us all why we have to be so careful when there is no rain and the ground and brush are so dry.

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