Thursday, September 28

‘The wind fans the flames like a blacksmith’s fire, there’s nothing that can stop it’: Bushfires have ravaged parts of burned-out Rhodes, writes NICK FAGGE, but teams of volunteers are braving the 40C heat to end hell.

The temperature gauge reads 40 degrees Celsius and it’s hellishly hot on a mountainside in Rhodes.

There’s not a cloud in the sky, just the smell of old fires and a wisp of wood smoke.

I am surrounded by a forest of charred bushes and trees.

Suddenly, a gust of hot wind inspires dry tinder brush to burst into flame.

As a Chinook helicopter, laden with a cargo of seawater to put out the fire, flies overhead, the ferocious forest fires that have been ravaging this vacation island come to life.

The temperature gauge reads 40 degrees Celsius and it's hellishly hot on a mountainside in Rhodes.  Pictured: A fire truck is seen today over an area smoldering from the wildfires

The temperature gauge reads 40 degrees Celsius and it’s hellishly hot on a mountainside in Rhodes. Pictured: A fire truck is seen today over an area smoldering from the wildfires

Flames are seen on the island of Rhodes as wildfires rage, forcing evacuations.

Flames are seen on the island of Rhodes as wildfires rage, forcing evacuations.

A man uses a fire extinguisher to put out the flames and slow their spread on the island of Rhodes.

A man uses a fire extinguisher to put out the flames and slow their spread on the island of Rhodes.

Around the hillside, the ash gray and charcoal black forest glows in the heat.

The popular seaside resorts of Lindos, Kiotari and Pelki, which are visited by thousands of British tourists, are just a few kilometers down the road.

Greek firefighters who have been fighting the wildfire since last week hoped they had won.

This morning, hoteliers cautiously encouraged their missing guests that it was finally safe to occupy their vacant rooms.

But as fierce winds breathed new life into the flames, the fight against the devastating wildfires that have devastated much of this popular holiday island and prompted the evacuation of some 19,000 people is far from over.

As I drive with my colleague, photographer Tim Clarke, to the nearby hillside village of Laerma, the epicenter of the bushfires, we witness the devastation nature can wreak on a scorched earth.

Telegraph wires hang on blackened poles that have burned like matches.

The carcasses of wild deer lie burned at the edge of the hot asphalt road.

As we watch the flames come to life, local volunteers Nikos and Christos Christoforos yell to pull over in their blue BMW.

A huge flame is seen rising above the trees on the Greek island of Rhodes on Monday.

A huge flame is seen rising above the trees on the Greek island of Rhodes on Monday.

An exhausted firefighter covered in soot with a face mask around his chin is seen in Rhodes

An exhausted firefighter covered in soot with a face mask around his chin is seen in Rhodes

A Chinook helicopter loaded with a cargo of seawater to put out the fire, flies overhead as its operators work to put out the massive fires that have raged on the island of Rhodes.

A Chinook helicopter loaded with a cargo of seawater to put out the fire, flies overhead as its operators work to put out the massive fires that have raged on the island of Rhodes.

Leaving his car door open, Father Nikos grabs a fire extinguisher and tries to put out the new flames.

His son Christos does the same, trying to cut down the few remaining bushes that haven’t gone up in smoke.

But as soon as they blow out one flame, a gust of hot wind re-ignites another.

“This is where our family comes from,” explains Christos. We live in Rhodes Town now, but I’m back with my father to save what we can.

A few kilometers further on, the residents of the village of Laerma have begun to return home.

The town had been evacuated on Saturday because the fires threatened to destroy everything in the place.

Their neighbors in Lardos, at the bottom of the hill, rallied to support them, providing shelter, food, water and hope.

Here the firefighters do not pay for their pastries in the bakery or for coffee in the cafeterias.

A charred forest stretches into the distance as flames engulf trees on the Greek island

A charred forest stretches into the distance as flames engulf trees on the Greek island

A charred forest filled with blackened corrugated iron panels is seen today in Rhodes

A charred forest filled with blackened corrugated iron panels is seen today in Rhodes

Flames engulf the branches of a tree in Rhodes today as the Greek bushfires continue to spread

Flames engulf the branches of a tree in Rhodes today as the Greek bushfires continue to spread

But as the brilliant ocher flames begin to dance once more around the few remaining trees on the outskirts of Laerma, some fear they have returned too soon.

“We’ve had forest fires before,” explained villager Naktaios Tharinakis.

“There were big fires in 1987 and in 2007, but never as bad as this one.

‘This year is crazy.

“We had to evacuate the town on Saturday because the fire was very close.

‘The fire didn’t reach the village this time, but I know people living further into the mountains who have lost their homes.

‘We are used to hot weather here in the summer: 35, 36 degrees Celsius, but not 42 or even 45 degrees as it has been. And the wind makes everything worse.

‘Fan the flames like a blacksmith’s fire. There is nothing that can stop it.

A burnt tire lies in the middle of a charred forest on the Greek island of Rhodes.

A burnt tire lies in the middle of a charred forest on the Greek island of Rhodes.

MailOnline reporter Nick Fagge reports from a charred forest on the island of Rhodes

MailOnline reporter Nick Fagge reports from a charred forest on the island of Rhodes

The whooping of a four-wheel drive fire truck brings our conversation to a halt.

Sooty-faced, tired-looking firefighters run past.

A grove of blackened trees has once again burst into flames a stone’s throw from the village.

The wild fire refuses to go out.

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