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Cyprus

Fire service chief says most fires due to human action

Cyprus Mail file photo

Around 93 per cent of fires are due to human action, fire service chief Marcos Trangolas said on Monday at the launch of a volunteer fire patrol programme.

The programme, Hephaestus 2018, which is running for the second consecutive year, involves joint actions for the prevention and tackling of fires in rural and other high-risk areas.

It includes the reinstatement of rural watch, Trangolas said, which in the past contributed to a drastic reduction in fires.

As part of the programme groups of volunteers will patrol high risk areas day and night, aiming to prevent arson and find fires early. The volunteers will act under the guidance of the fire service. The programme, which unites the fire service, non-governmental organisation Reaction, the forestry department, the Bank of Cyprus and others, will run until the end of September.

Trangolas said human negligence or intention causes most fires, but added that climate change is also a factor.

“Its consequences are felt more by the members of the fire service,” he said.

“Just the past week we have experienced in some areas floods threatening human lives […] while the same day we had fires in other areas,” he added.

Trangolas said that Cyprus, like fellow Mediterranean countries Spain, Italy, Greece and southern France, is faced each year with large fires.

“High temperatures, drought, and winds, are the main reasons for the eruption and spread of fires, but statistically 93 per cent of fires are due to the human factor,” he said.

According to studies and statistics, Trangolas said, large fires will increase in number and intensity.

The head of Reaction, Marios Stavrou, said that dozens of volunteers have been trained in the prevention of and handling of fires and in giving first aid.

In Cyprus, fires each summer cause incalculable damage to forests and the countryside, said the head of the forestry department, Charalambos Andreou.

“Unfortunately, a new threat, that of climate change observed globally but which is especially felt in our region, will make things worse,” he said.

Other factors which worsen the problem are the rise in city residents heading to the countryside and forests for recreation, the spread of individual homes scattered across forest areas and the fact that almost every corner of the forest and countryside is accessible to the public.

“We will do also this year our duty to the fullest for the protection of our forests from fires to deliver them to the next generations, if possible, in a better condition,” Andreou said.

Greek Ambassador, Ilias Fotopoulos, said in an address at the launch read by consul Christina Zacharioudaki that Greece and Cyprus have developed good cooperation for dealing with fires and natural disasters in general. He also said the two countries have forged trilateral cooperation with Israel, which faces similar challenges.

The fire services of the three countries, he said, are properly trained and ready to help each other in cases of emergency.

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