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Fire near Athens recedes

August 25, 2009|Associated Press

ATHENS — A massive wildfire that destroyed homes and forests receded Monday as a multinational airborne effort beat back flames that at one point threatened Athens' northern suburbs and raged near the ancient battleground at Marathon.

As winds died down late Monday, fire brigade spokesman Yiannis Kappakis said there were "no significant active fronts" left of the fire, which for days has sent a pall of smoke that plunged parts of the Greek capital into a brown half-light. Thousands of people were forced to flee their homes.

Kappakis said more than 1,000 firefighters and soldiers would remain on duty in case the blaze revived.

Since Saturday, the fire has razed more than 51,000 acres of pine forest, olive grove, brush and farmland, according to the European Commission's European Forest Fire Information System. Greek officials say 150 homes were damaged.

Experts warned it would take generations to replace the lost forests, many of which were burned beyond the hope of natural regrowth.

At least five people were treated for burns, and several dozen reported breathing problems, but no injuries were serious, the Health Ministry said.

Other major fires still burned near the coastal town of Porto Germeno, northwest of Athens, and near villages on Evia island, east of the capital.

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