Fire department officials in Greece arrested two men on Saturday for allegedly deliberately setting fires, while hundreds of firefighters battled wildfires that have killed at least 21 people in the past week.
One man was arrested on the island of Evia for allegedly setting fire to dry grass in the Karystos area. The fire department said the man confessed to having set four other fires in the area in July and August.
A second man arrested in the Larissa area of central Greece also was accused of intentionally setting fire to dried vegetation.
Officials have blamed arson for several fires in Greece over the past week. It remains unclear what sparked the country's largest blazes, including one in the northeastern region of Evros, where nearly all the fire-attributed deaths occurred, and another on the fringes of Athens.
“Some ... arsonists are setting fires, endangering forests, property and above all human lives,” Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister Vassilis Kikilias said on Thursday. “What is happening is not just unacceptable, but despicable and criminal.”
The minister said nine fires were set in the space of four hours on Thursday morning in the Avlona area in the northern foothills of Mount Parnitha on the northwestern fringes of Athens which is one of the capital's last green areas.
A major fire was already burning on the southern side of the mountain at the time, and it continued to burn on Saturday.
“You are committing a crime against the country,” Kikilias said. “We will find you. You will be held accountable to justice.”
Later on Thursday, police arrested a 45-year-old man on suspicion of arson for allegedly setting at least three fires in the Avlona area. A search of his home revealed kindling, a fire torch gun and pine needles, police said.