A volunteer wildfire lookout programme is set to begin in Cyprus, following public criticism and disdain over preventable fires and arson attacks in forested areas.
According to Cyprus News Agency (CNA), the office of the Commissioner for Volunteering and NGOs has announced a new collaboration to fight against wildfires, bringing together the Forestry Department, Fire Services, and Civil Defence all set to collaborate with Non-Government Organizations and volunteer groups to achieve better results.
CNA said the volunteer programme will be aimed to support state agencies, with the participation of boy scouts and girl scouts, as well as rescue teams, fire fighter associations, and clusters such as Reaction Cyprus, emergency volunteers, and social advocate groups.
“The goal is to boost the lookout programme in the domain of fire prevention by spotting possible fires in a timely manner,” said the volunteer commissioner’s office.
Forest fires are most often attributed to human activity, such as burning vegetation to clear out an area, throwing cigarette butts to the ground, hunting, and burning trash
Volunteerism is a relatively new concept in the Republic of Cyprus, with social groups and government efforts merging in the last few years to seek solutions in a number of problems, ranging from environmental concerns to policing the streets.
Most forested areas in the Republic of Cyprus belong to the state, with some 28% being in private hands and scattered all over Cypriot land, mainly in the mountains.
Forest fires are most often attributed to human activities, such as burning vegetation to clear out an area, throwing cigarette butts to the ground, hunting, and burning trash in non-designated areas. Military activities, lightning, and vehicular incidents are also factors but to a lesser degree, according to state agencies.
A number of malicious fires and arson attacks have also been reported recently, including allegations against disgruntled men in some cases who failed to be hired as reservists and were found to be suspects or persons of interest in causing wildfires.
Forestry department officials are said to be already monitoring sensitive areas and parts where fires could originate, but recent reports suggested that they could not keep up with the frequency and timing of fires, often set at different locations around the same time or under the cover of darkness.