By Poly Pantelides
FROM putting out fires to rescuing people trapped in cars, the island’s fire services have responded to thousands of calls so far this year, doing so despite the early retirement of over 100 fire-fighters in 2013 alone.
Islandwide, between January and September this year, the fire services and its disaster response unit EMAK responded to 5,560 calls relating to anything from fires in homes, to car arson and wildfires, the services’ spokeswoman Lisa Kemidji said.
Of those, most were in the Nicosia district with 1,748; followed by the Limassol district with 1,458; Paphos, 833; Larnaca, 784; Famagusta, 531; and EMAK (across Cyprus), 206. Responses to wildfires alone came to 3,172 until September this year, compared with 2,982 in the equivalent period last year.
The busiest month for wildfires was May when fire services had to respond to 538 separate calls. The calls in March came to 252, marking a jump from 126 in January, and 109 in February, which has so far been the quietest month for wildfires. Fire services responded to 447 wildfires in September; 386 in August; 381 in July, and 472 in June.
But though August may not have been the busiest month in terms of the sheer numbers of calls, a series of blazes raging in parallel had kept fire services very busy, with their deputy director Marios Trangolas bemoaning the lack of staff which forced them to prioritise and push everyone to their limits.
Emergency measures freezing hiring and promoting of staff across the civil service, forced fire services to do the best with what they had. But, just as the justice minister said at the time, the fire services have got 25 additional staff, seconded from police. Kemidji said the new 25 members would be put through a fast-track training course to begin, and are due to start serving at fire stations.
Meanwhile, in addition to running around from fire to fire, between January and September this year fire-fighters have also responded to 2,892 distinct less-serious calls involving getting trapped in lifts and such.
But fire-fighters have also rescued 1,454 people so far this year, Kemidji said. This includes freeing up people trapped in cars, or rescuing a lone hiker who fell down a cliff.