The Department of Forests says the chance of a disastrous blaze is very real in Cyprus, with a much greater risk threatening forests but also people’s lives.
The director of the department, Charalambos Alexandrou, says the problem of forest fires has always been treated as a security issue but the danger and risk of a conflagration is much stronger.
Speaking on a local television news programme, the director used a forest in Panayia as an example, saying it was very close to Paphos forest which is a compact area of 60,000 hectares.
A conflagration or disastrous blaze can occur from a single fire that grows into a wildfire or several forest fires that unite, causing a greater threat, Alexandrou said, citing examples such the ongoing fire in Siberia burning for two months and the California blaze last year.
A fire-fighting aircraft from the forests department will be in the air ready to combat a fire quickly when necessary
“But in Cyprus there is another factor, the rural flight, so the risk of having a disastrous blaze is very real,” he said.
But the rural exodus, the abandonment pattern of peoples migrating from rural to urban areas, is often associated with crowds visiting the forest for leisure, often causing the risk factor to be elevated during summer outings.
Alexandrou also said during the long summer season that runs from May 1 through October 31, there are periods of worsening conditions such as higher temperatures and stronger winds. As a consequence of all the factors above, the director said the readiness level of his department is elevated to a Red Alert.
During a red alert, aerial forest patrols will take place daily between 11:30am and 4pm, mainly to spot fires in their early stages. But Alexandrou also clarified that in addition to monitoring, a fire-fighting aircraft from the department will also be in the air ready to combat a blaze when necessary.
There will also be loaded earth movers on the ready that can take action as soon as a fire is spotted, while with prevention foot patrols will also run throughout the day. Alexandrou added that more fire engines will be out of their stations and on duty at various strategic locations in order to respond to fires more quickly.
“The movement of greater numbers of fire fighting personnel right at the point of origin of a fire is more effective,” Alexandrou said.
The director also responded to a question whether his department has everything it needs to combat fires, with Alexandrou saying the system is not ideal but we are continually working to improve it.
Smoke or fire should be reported immediately by dialing the Forest Department at 1407 or the Fire Department at 112.