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Greece Wildfires Ravage Large Areas In Southwest Of Country

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GREECE WILFDIFES
An helicopter drops water over during an wild fire near Patras, Greece, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. (104 Fahrenheit). (AP Photo/Giannis Androutsopoulos) | AP

ATHENS, Greece -- Greek authorities declared a state of emergency near the country's third-largest city Wednesday due to raging wildfires, but officials said no inhabited areas were under immediate threat.

Some 50 residents of a small village outlying the western port of Patras were evacuated earlier in the day as a precaution when flames approached their homes. The fire brigade and civil protection officials denied an initial report by regional authorities that a Patras University campus was also evacuated.

The fires burned on three fronts, sending smoke over the city of 220,000 people some 10 kilometers (6 miles) away. Strong winds drove the flames, which followed a week-long heatwave that left much of Greece's countryside tinder-dry.

"The conditions are very tough. We are using everything we have against the fire," said Apostolos Katsifaras, a regional governor for western Greece.

Seven planes and two helicopters dumped water on burning pine forests. More than 170 firefighters, assisted by volunteers and 60 firetrucks, were struggling to contain the blaze on the ground, which raged through rugged terrain.

A state of emergency was declared in five villages, which allows authorities to call in Greece's military.

Forest and brush fires are common in the hot, dry summer months. More than 60 people were killed when forest fires raged across southern Greece in 2007.

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