“I saw the cats and I opened the door, I took two of them in my arms,” Gkikas told local media, according to an Australian Broadcasting Corporation translation.
“As I tried to reach the other, the wind slammed the door and I saw the fire at that moment,” Gkikas recalled. “As I was recovering, I realized I did not have the keys, so I thought I’d go through the side door, so I could get into the garage, but on the way I began to feel the great heat coming. I cannot believe that in 10 minutes the flames burned everything.”
Wind speeds in Greece last Monday were exceptionally strong, gusting to 77 mph. The strong winds combined with excessively dry conditions provided the perfect conditions for the wildfire to spread at an incredible pace.
Dimitri Piros, director of medical services for Ekav, Greece’s nationwide ambulance service, told BBC News that the fire “struck like a flamethrower.”
With 92 confirmed deaths, it’s the 11th-deadliest wildfire on record, according to an informal list developed by the Wikipedia community. No official global wildfire records exist. The Greece wildfire is the deadliest since the 2009 Black Saturday bush fires in Australia.
Luckily, Gkikas was able to escape the blaze with no injuries, and his home suffered only minor damage. The only question we’re left with is whether the cats escaped, too.