The duality of fire is delicate. At its worst,  wildfires singe deeply on landscapes and psyches. Social burns can take just as long to heal.

A small holiday community, Mati, one hour from Athens, has experienced a disaster. 

On a windy day in 2018, the town lost everything in 2 hours. A negligent ignition in the dry, Mediterranean hills descended faster than anyone had anticipated. It raced to the sea.

From a wisp of smoke to an all-consuming inferno, the fire ran through homes. It grew unchecked and families fled without coordination or direction. 

Evacuation orders were late, conflicting, and disjointed. Hesitation transfigured into panic. Some say the police directed everyone onto a narrow road that would be a final resting place for many. Most said they saw no services at all.

Shunted onto tiny streets, the flames wrapped around many. No where to go.

"In my nightmares, I am always in the sea" - Dimitris Matrakides

The sea offered the only safety, but not all could reach it.  Many floated for hours, listening to the embers crack.

From ignition to the passage of the last flame front, it took only minutes.

In those moments, heroes were found. Some returning multiple times on motorbikes and cars, to carry out those whom they did not know.

In those moments, lives were taken and dismantled. Over 100 souls were lost, some only meters from the sea, still clutching one another.

In those moments, a community reduced to ash. Where homes once stood, now only dry weeds.

Many that experienced this day have not returned, the memories too painful. Others have started to accept the scar as their new home.

"Do you think this will happen again?"

"Probably, one year and nothing has changed. The government bring more planes in for the fires this year, but it is just a show. Nothing will change"

One year later, towers of vulcanized vegetation lie strewn across the town. The political appetite for helping has dissipated. There is only blame and apathy circulating. 

For some to rationalize the disaster, claims are made that Mati's poor planning and design created the disaster. Or that more pressing wildfires took all the firefighters away. 

There are Mati's everywhere. The current trajectory of the human-landscape relationship will only reveal more.

Mati is a community that is not recovering. It is badly burnt and there is no one dressing the wounds.

The story of Mati, unfortunately is one that is reoccurring: Pedrago Grande, Fort McMurray, Santa Rosa, Yarnell, numerous communities in New South Wales, hundreds of communities in developing nations, Paradise, and this list will continue to grow. 

The economic, environmental, and emotional externalities of wildfire are unquantifiable. Failure to recognize the underlying drivers of this natural hazard is too costly to be an option.

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