By George Psyllides
Rich vegetation in the countryside combined with drought set the stage for a difficult summer as regards firefighting, fire service chief Markos Trangolas said.
May signals the start of the fire season and prevailing conditions at present are a cause for concern, the fire chief told the Cyprus News Agency.
“There is quite a lot of vegetation in the countryside, there is drought, dryness, and all these elements worry us a lot,” he said. “With these conditions, we are in for a difficult summer.”
Statistically around the world, and Cyprus, some 93 per cent of fires start from human activity, the chief said. The service’s main objective is to reduce fires, something achieved in 2017 with a 10 per cent drop against the previous year.
A key role in further reduction is played by local communities and the fire service always seeks to have close cooperation with them on fire prevention matters, but also fighting them.
Volunteer groups from communities and other bodies are trained by the service to assist their work.
Trangolas said all rural stations and observation posts were staffed but patrols will be stepped up during periods with higher temperatures.
Experience shows that June is the most difficult month and the fire service will be campaigning heavily to alert everyone so that any blaze is spotted and tackled swiftly before it did a lot of damage.
“We must all have our eyes peeled because the danger of a fire breaking out is constant,” he said.
By May 17, the service will have completed a series of meetings with local councils in all districts.
Larnaca is already done and it will be followed by Limassol and Paphos. Trangolas said they will see around 130 councils and listen to their problems with the aim of resolving them.
He said they expected people roving in the countryside were expected to play a crucial role in preventing fires.
Additional vehicles were also expected in the next two months as the service seeks to renew its fleet.
The Republic’s aircraft were also ready and would be counted on, along with help from the British military bases on the island, to play an important role in firefighting.
The chief urged people who might spot a fire to provide the authorities of accurate information regarding its location, the wind, and access. Above all however, they should stay clear of the path.
He also appealed to the public not to try and put out fires without any firefighting means, especially in windy conditions where the flames could suddenly change direction and put life at risk.