On 18th August 2012, a fire broke out on the Greek island of Chios. This was not a natural occurrence, the fire was started by a man looking for revenge.
By the evening of August 20th, the fire had grown into a blazing monster, devouring hillside after hillside, threatening a large number of towns and villages, and continuing to advance. Due to the incredible dryness of the island at this time of year, and the thick coverage of trees, nothing was able to stop the fire as strong winds drove it on with intense power.
Hundreds of firefighters, volunteers and soldiers battled to control the fire using dozens of vehicles and dropping aircraft loads of water from above. Help was also requested from Italy and Spain to try and bring the blaze under control. Eventually, after nearly a week, over half of the trees of Chios were destroyed before the fire was fully extinguished. The smoke from the fire had been seen from Crete, over 100km to the south.
Chios is the island home of Athanasia, the owner of Iris Glass. Athanasia lived for many years on the island and still returns there regularly. It is also the home of mastic gum, which is cultivated only on this single island. The fire destroyed more than half of the island’s mastic orchards. Sadly, much of the island is still covered in the skeletal remains of the trees that once blessed the island hills with rich greens and browns. It will be decades before the island fully recovers.
A 24-year old man was arrested for starting the fire. He was angry at not being hired as a local firefighter, and in his anger admitted to starting 14 separate fires in the north of the island. In 2012, over 250 people were detained on arson charges in Greece. Mostly the charges were due to neglect rather than deliberate arson. Forest fires continue to be a huge problem in Greece.
The Grief of Orpheus, a fused glass hand painted panel created by Athanasia clearly shows reference not only to the Ancient myths of Orpheus, but also to the great fire of Chios, images of which remained with her long after the flames died away.