Last week we could read about the fires in Haifa/Israel. About 20 years ago a fierce fire almost destroyed the monastery of Simonospetras. In August 1990 some 20 squaremeters of forrest burned and the monastery had to be evacated. 10 monks stayed behind and started a heroic battle against the flames. At the spot where the fire reached the roof of the guesthouse the burnmarks are still to be seen: a text still remembers the fire and the disaster that almost accurred.
Reinhold Zwerger visited Mount Athos in Oktober 1990. When he saw the consequenses of the fire he quit his plans to open old paths and started helping cleaning the burned forrest. Others followed his example, and soon non-orthodox and orthodox pilgrims were united in cutting away the bushes and trees (read page 110 and further in his book Wege am Athos).
The worst fire during the 1990 fire season occurred in the Mount Athos peninsula (“Holy Mountain”) which is the location and property of many Eastern Orthodox monasteries. It lasted for two weeks and burned 1,500 ha of productive chestnut forest, unique in Greece and brushlands. Strong winds and almost complete lack of a forest road network severely hampered firefighting efforts. The ecological damage was considered “biblical” since the vegetation and natural ecosystem processes were largely undisturbed from human influence since A.D. 960. Due to exclusion of human activities from the whole peninsula (Mount Athos is considered Holy by the Eastern Orthodox church and administratively is autonomous from the Greek Government). Two specially equipped helicopters sent from the Federal Republic of Germany, kindly assisted the firefighting efforts.
Also see our blog 274.