August 28, 2007 / 12:38 PM / 12 years ago

Desperate Greek farmer fights fire with wine

MAKISTOS, Greece (Reuters) - When the water ran dry in fire-scarred southern Greece, farmer George Dimopoulos used his home-made wine to quench the flames threatening his home.

“For 17 hours I fought with the flames. I could not tell whether it was day or night,” he told Reuters in the hamlet of Makistos, most of whose residents fled as the fire neared.

Power cuts shut down the electric pumps extracting water from boreholes and those who stayed behind to save their property had to improvise.

“I had 300 litres (80 U.S. gallons) of wine in the house. I poured it into a fertilizer pump and started wetting the house with it. What could I do? This wine was all I have,” said Dimopoulos, 64.

Many rural Greeks make wine and olive oil for their own use. Dimopoulos may have lost the wine he would have drunk, but managed to save at least part of his home with the sacrifice.

Makistos, overlooking the southern Peloponnese town of Zakharo, was one of dozens of villages evacuated in five days of fires that killed 63 people and left a trail of destruction.

Of Makistos’s 50 residents, seven died in the flames. Nearly all the homes were burnt down. On Tuesday the village was struggling to come to terms with the loss.

In the hills above, all that was left of vineyards, pine trees and olive groves were blackened stumps of smoking wood.

Many locals were still living in fear of the fires, which the government has suggested could be the work of arsonists.

“The fire started again this morning,” said Christos Delopoulos, a farmer from the nearby village of Kalyvakia.

“It was not windy and two friends said they heard two blasts. I have no doubt it is arson.”

Dimopoulos said fleeing the flames had not necessarily been a safer option than staying as he had.

“The fire was going very fast. All the older people didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to leave,” said Dimopoulos. “Three who left with the donkey died.”

The donkey’s charred remains were still at the entrance of the village on Tuesday, on the side of the road.

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