ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Two major forest fires were raging out of control on either side of the Greek capital Monday, burning up to 100 houses, prompting residents to flee and turning the sky over Athens a hazy orange from the smoke. Some people were reported to be trapped on a beach by the flames.
The first fire broke out in a pine forest near the seaside settlement of Kineta 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Athens between the capital and Corinth. At least 150 firefighters were on the scene while five water-dropping planes and seven helicopters helped to fight the blaze from the air. Reinforcements were sent from across Greece.
The second major fire broke out Monday afternoon in the Penteli area northeast of Athens. Local authorities said they were evacuating children’s summer camps, while dozens of homes and cars were reportedly destroyed. At least three aircraft and a helicopter were battling the flames, along with at least 50 firefighters, the fire department said.
The coast guard was sending at least one patrol boat to rescue people who called to say the fire had trapped them on a beach.
The fire was burning into Rafina, with the sky above the nearby port that serves ferries to some of the Cycladic islands, turning black from the smoke. The highway to the nearby town of Marathon was closed to traffic.
Rafina Mayor Vangelis Bournous said he believed about 100 houses in the area had been burned.
Gale force winds with strong, shifty gusts were hampering firefighting efforts at both blazes.
In the first fire, west of the capital near Kineta, three communities were evacuated and the blaze shut down a nearly 13-mile section on two highways linking the Peloponnese with central Greece. Thick smoke reduced visibility on the highway to mere yards.
Several houses were in flames, footage from the Greek TV station Skai showed. Some residents used garden hoses to try to save their properties, while others escaped in cars and on mopeds.
Hours after the blaze began, flecks of ash swirled down onto central Athens.
Authorities were sending 17 more firefighting vehicles along with 45 firefighters to Kineta from elsewhere in Greece, as well as a 30-man firefighting crew from the northern city of Thessaloniki. Other towns and cities were sending water trucks and volunteer firefighters.
It was not immediately clear how the fire started in the Geraneia mountains near Kineta.
The fire department also said a third fire was burning farmlands and woods on the southern island of Crete. Two helicopters there were dropping water from the air to help dozens of firefighters.
Forest fires are common in Greece during the hot, dry summers and the country has been facing high temperatures recently of up to 104 Fahrenheit.
The worst fire season by far occurred in 2007, when large swaths of forest and farmland burned, mainly in the Peloponnese in southern Greece, killing more than 60 people.