It was a spark from a homemade stove falling on a pile of straw at a refugees’ hovel that’s said to have instigated a new phase in the history of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second city. A century ago, on 18 August 1917, the fire grew into an inferno that destroyed 9,500 houses, left 1 sq km of the city in cinders and 70,000 homeless.
As the centre of operations for allied forces in the Balkans during the first world war, Thessaloniki had no fire service and its water supply was requisitioned by foreign soldiers – which, along with the Vadaris wind, is why the Great Fire attained historic proportions.
Refugees and foreign powers commandeering resources are still resonant realities for the rebuilt port city of 325,000 as it harks back to the conflagration this week.
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