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Report shows busy 2020 for fire services

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In responding to 11,985 calls to tackle 7203 fires, the fire services also assisted 1774 people last year according to their annual report made public on Tuesday.

Assistance was given to peoples after fires, car accidents, workplace accidents, faulty elevators, collapsed or high buildings, bodies of water, wells and cliffs.

This number also includes pedestrians who were trapped following road accidents, trapped in inaccessible areas, or lost in forests or rural areas.

In 2020, the fire service rescued 18 members of the public from fires as opposed to 41 the year before, while fire-related injuries rose from 31 to 103. Three people died compared to eight the previous year.

Out of the 7203 fires recorded, 4789 were in rural areas and 2141 in urban areas. The report states that despite fluctuations, the total number of fires recorded in 2020 was 12.88 per cent higher than in 2019.

Fires recorded in rural areas increased by about 19 per cent. An initial decrease of 50 per cent in April, usually a month of wildfires caused by Easter bonfires, was attributed to strict coronavirus measures that resulted in increased police patrols and limited social gatherings.

In the period between May and November a 12.7 per cent increase was recorded due to the illegal practice of stubble burning mainly seen in Nicosia, Limassol and Paphos.

Another factor facilitating this increase was the marked decrease in rain which resulted in large areas of dry vegetation.

The report listed rubbish burning, discarded cigarette ends and outdoors activities such as barbecues as other factors contributing to wildfires, with the human factor accounting for 92 per cent.

As for fires in urban areas, there was only a 2.51 increase that the fire service attributed to the increase of the public’s at-home activities in times of stricter measures.

With a human factor of 90 per cent, these fires took place in empty lots, motor vehicles, private homes, businesses, flats and bins.

As causes for urban fires, the report listed electrical issues at homes and businesses, mechanical and electrical issues in vehicles, discarded cigarette ends, arson, faulty fireplaces and chimneys, misuse of heat sources and cooking devices, and tool and equipment misuse at the workplace.

The total cost of damages caused by fires amounted to €9,915.210, according to the report.

Aside from fires, the report recorded a 13.7 per cent decrease in responses to incidents relating to adverse weather conditions, animal rescue, people trapped in lifts, rain-related floods, vehicles needing to be towed from flooded streets, people trapped in cars due to accidents.

The fire service reported that false calls decreased by 15 per cent from 2019 to 2020. Of these 647 were made with good intent, for example by people calling about what they thought was fire, but did not amount to fire, such as dust clouds, 93 were false alarms – such as alarms sounding due to electrical or mechanical faults, and only 13 were conducted intentionally, such as prank calls.

The report concluded that despite the dangers posed by dry weather during the summer season, the fire service’s land and air strategies have contributed to significantly preventing and suppressing more fires, both in rural and urban areas.

Other factors stated are heavier rains recorded in the first half of 2020, public preventative measures, the establishing of rural fire lookouts and the incidental increasing of patrols due to coronavirus measures.  Better response times and the fire service’s collaboration with the police were also considered.

In addition, it was suggested that the fire service’s campaigns could have played a role in reducing risky behaviours that could pose fire hazards by encouraging the public to be more diligent.

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