Greek secret service to investigate wildfires

Associated Press Modified: August 21, 2012 at 10:16 am •  Published: August 21, 2012

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's secret service will join investigations into an unusually large number of wildfires across the country to see if arson has been involved, an official said Tuesday.

As Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias announced the decision, more than 20 major blazes were raging out of control in Greece, including one that has ravaged the eastern Aegean island of Chios for four days.

Dendias said in many cases authorities have "indications, if not proof, that the fires were lit intentionally," including blazes on Chios and the western resort island of Zakynthos.

On Sunday, authorities on the central Aegean island of Andros arrested two French tourists on suspicion of starting a forest fire. A prosecutor planned to decide later Tuesday whether to press charges against them.

In Chios, firefighters were battling two major fronts in central and southern areas. Whipped on by gale-force winds, the blazes have wiped out large tracts of forest, olive groves and plantations of mastic trees whose resin production is a mainstay of the island's economy. About 360 firefighters, soldiers and volunteers were being assisted by two water-dropping planes and seven helicopters, the fire brigade said.

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