West Thessaloniki ablaze
G. Megas archive, 19th August 1917
Starting with one house at the beginning of Ayiou Dimitriou street, the fire destroyed, with the help of the Vardaris (a strong north wind), 250 acres of building area, 9,500 houses and most of the city's churches, banks, schools, printing presses, hotels and shops. It left 72,000 people homeless, two thirds of whom were Jews. The fire wiped out the traditional, cosmopolitan appearance of the city but it opened the way for the town-planning miracle of the Hebrard Plan.
From "Pages from an autobiography" by the poet Yiorgos Vafopoulos
"On the next day, August 6, the feast of Our Saviour, Thessaloniki made history, yet again. There where once the labyrinthine alleys of the Jewish district had spread out, were now only stones and smouldering ashes. In the other quarter, where the grand shops and hotels tower, tragic ruins reminded one of their former glory. And all these sad remains of a rich big city were swathed in heavy clouds of smoke. Deep in their basements the embers glowed for several months after the fire and, as we discovered later, so great was the force of the fire that all the glassware melted and amidst the debris of the pastry shops one could make out the jars of sweets transformed into a mass of burnt sugar and glass. The tremendous expanse covered by this catastrophe took the name of the Kammena (burnt areas). The whole district had been transmuted into a new Pompeii, where by day teams of excavators labored and by night the bums, criminals and lovers found refuge".