Greece’s government is planning tougher penalties for arson following a spate of wildfires

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek authorities are planning tougher penalties for arson — with fines to be increased to 10 times the current level — following a spate of major wildfires that have already caused more damage than the 2022 annual total.

Civil Protection Minister Vassilis Kikilias said details of the measures would be announced next month, but added that fines for causing fires deliberately or because of negligent behavior would match penalties introduced two years ago for the abuse of animals. Those carry a fine of up to 50,000 euros ($55,000) and a maximum jail sentence of 10 years.

“I am obliged to say that the next fire season will find us in a different position, It’s not just the penalties — the fines will increase tenfold — but we need a … change in mentality,” Kikilias said in an interview with state television late Monday. The changes, he said, would include school programs and locally based initiatives to promote forest fire prevention awareness.

Greece battled 10 major wildfires last month, including blazes outside Athens and on the island of Rhodes, during three successive heat waves.

More than 500 square kilometers (nearly 200 square miles) of land have been burned so far this year, more than double the annual total in 2022, according to the European Forest Fire Information System, a European Union agency that tracks wildfire damage using satellite data.

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