NEW measures, including cameras, radio systems and aircraft rentals will be implemented soon that will help improve the effectiveness of fire-fighting in addition to those systems already in place, it was announced on Friday.
One of the new measures is the purchase of two cameras which will be used to constantly monitor rural areas and fires and will transmit live images to the crisis management centre in Larnaca which is already up and running and to mobile crisis centres which will be set up near the fires.
“It is estimated that they will be purchased by the end of June-early July, according to the assurances of the officials,” justice minister Ionas Nicolaou said after a meeting on Friday at which the measures were discussed with the agriculture minister, the interior minister and other officials.
In addition, he said, an evaluation study has been submitted to the finance ministry either to buy or to rent two aircraft to be used by the forestry department. Police have already confirmed that two Bell helicopters will be used throughout the summer period for firefighting purposes, and a system has been installed to allow fire retardant material to be dropped from them.
Nicolaou pointed out that various other measures could be implemented in the near future, such as the connection of radio communication systems, but there are also measures that need further time and planning, for example the replacement of the vehicles of the forestry department and the strengthening of the fleet of the fire services with smaller vehicles.
“These measures have been planned, we have made offers and funds have been secured, but it takes time and we can have them – if everything goes well with the offers – in 2018,” the minister explained.
He stressed that all the government departments are involved in a satisfactory way, and therefore, there is a better monitoring of the various fires that may break out during the summer season.
The measures are being taken following the large fires in the Solea and Argaka areas last June which destroyed more than 18.5 square kilometres of forest. After the disastrous fires, the government appointed an independent expert committee to evaluate the effectiveness of the island’s fire-fighting capability.