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22 June, 2024
 
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Police seek middle ground in lambradjia madness

Fire department official says new legislation will offer approval scheme to combat illegal bonfires

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Officials in Cyprus appear to tolerate lambradjia bonfires even though they are illegal, with police and fire departments pushing for new legislation to tackle a long and dangerous Easter tradition on the island that is not easy to change.

Fire Department spokesperson Andreas Kettis, who was a guest on state radio on Friday morning, was asked to comment on lambradjia fires on the island, where local youths try to compete with rival groups on who can have the biggest bonfire.

Lambradjia bonfires are illegal and often lead to situation of anarchy and noise pollution in local neighborhoods, but they are also viewed by many as upholding Greek Easter tradition in Cyprus.

'We all concur that a tradition that has been going on for hundreds of years is not something you can easily restrain, you cannot walk away from this past'

Kettis said the Fire Department was called to respond to 90 cases from March 10 through April 6, referring to fires in open public spaces such as parks, school yards, and empty lots.

The official pointed out that the bonfires were illegal, adding that the unlawful activity tended to be more intense during the night.

“These fires can be small but often times they grow, and both buildings and private vehicles are affected by this, essentially they cause property damages” Kettis said.

Youths warn local councilors to sit tight

Last month delinquent youths in Limassol, who have been ransacking homes in search of flammable wood, were thought to have been behind spray painted graffiti outside the town hall in Kato Polemidia, where locals were to meet to discuss ways to clamp down on lawlessness in the days leading up to Greek Easter.

Similar incidents take place in all districts where local authorities and police say they patrol areas but cannot put a stop to the tradition as a whole.

“As you can understand, this is not an easy situation to monitor,” Kettis said.

“So let me remind everyone here, it is forbidden to start a fire for any reason,” he said.

“But gathering firewood is allowed,” the radio host replied, with the spokesperson agreeing with her observation.

Middle ground to keep everyone happy

Cyprus Police in the past have said lambradjia bonfires were issues that ought to involve local authorities.

Kettis said the Chief of Police had tasked four experts, three from law enforcement and one from the fire department, and instructed them to draft a legislation proposal that would allow for special permits to be approved for lambradjia bonfires.

“We all concur that a tradition that has been going on for hundreds of years is not something you can easily restrain, you cannot walk away from this past,” the official said.

Kettis said new legislation would allow only approved bonfires that adhere to a strict safety protocol, while all other fires would remain unlawful.

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