From the beginning of the year until the end of August the fire services responded to just over 7,000 calls of which 4,453 were fires, and the remainder other callouts such as accidents, they said on Tuesday.
Property damage from fires so far this year amounted to €6.2 million, €5.8 million of which occurred in urban areas and €326,876 in rural areas. In total firemen rescued 1,284 people from various situations in the first eight months.
Fire service chief Marcos Trangkolas, in a news conference, said that by the start of this week the bulk of forest-fire season had passed. There had been a reduction of 50 per cent in the number of rural fires between May and August, he said.
Trangkolas speculated that the five-day fire in the Solea region on June 19, in which two firemen lost their lives, appeared to have woken people up a bit to the dangers of lighting fires recklessly in agricultural areas, which is illegal.
He said as part of the effort to prevent rural fires, the service had held 100 meetings with mayors and community authorities in high-risk areas. “We examined the problems and suggestions of local authorities and discussed practical measures, which include 24-hour patrols and the creation of observation posts in high-risk areas, and so the reduction target was achieved,” he said.
Hunting clubs had also been active in fire patrolling, he said.
A new round of meetings will be held in the coming weeks to raise awareness as around October and November the main cause of fires is burning scrub by farmers, especially in the Nicosia and Polis districts, the fire chief said.
To try and reduce the phenomenon – because it is illegal people do it surreptitiously – Trangkolas said a bill was being prepared that will offer farmers the opportunity and permission to burn scrub at a fixed time in the presence of a fire truck.
The process of preparing the draft law is expected to be completed end of this year, Trangkolas said.
“Fires are a social problem and concern the safety of citizens, their property, and the environment and to reduce the problem people must be vigilant, prepared, and act conscientiously and in that every citizen has to play his part,” said Trangkolas.
He also urged members of the public who know someone who either intentionally or recklessly has caused a fire to tell the authorities and not allow personal reasons or fear to outweigh the public interest.
The fire department, he added, has no authority to impose extrajudicial fines, but may, where information is collected, inform the police, which will carry out further investigations “so that the case can take the path to justice”.
He also said that as of September 3 every Saturday from 4pm to 7pm the public could visit any central fire station and ask for information, find out what they can do to help, or talk about self-protection if they find themselves in a situation involving fire.