New fire stations are being planned, Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis said on Monday as the summer, and its associated fire season, gets underway.
Speaking at the fire service exercise Torch, she said more fire stations would mean firefighters would be better spread across the island and thus be able to respond quicker to a fire or another emergency.
She added that new firefighters had recently been hired and joined the fire service.
“The fire service has been bolstered in terms of personnel which will help it carry out its duties,” she said.
As part of a wider scheme of new hirings in the police force, 26 new firefighters have recently been hired.
The fire service in Cyprus is currently under the jurisdiction of the police department but there are plans to make it an independent body.
“The full autonomy of the fire service, which has recently been given the green light, creates new prospects and I am sure it will enable the fire service to fulfil its duties and achieve its objectives,” the justice minister said.
“We have given particular focus to the fire service’s operational planning and since May 1, all 19 of the service’s rural stations and all 13 of its urban ones are fully manned,” Yiolitis added, saying that 531 firefighters and 167 others work at these 32 stations.
The exercise was set up after the Solea fire of 2016 prompted a comprehensive study aiming to identify any weaknesses in the different departments that fight such emergencies as well as their individual operations.
“Since then, a great deal of effort has gone into better defining the necessary processes for the coordination of services, resulting in a holistic plan allowing us to take better decisions both in terms of preventative measures as well as after an incident has occurred,” Yiolitis said.
Since 2020 a cross-departmental committee was set up to monitor these issues with the director of the forestry department as its head.
“This committee serves as an idea depository where representatives from various services and bodies can put forth their thoughts and pool their knowledge and experience to better guide the necessary measures for the prevention of fires,” Yiolitis said.
Chief of police Stylianos Papatheodorou said the country’s readiness to deal with fires and the ability of all services to work together are of paramount importance.
“The primary purpose of the exercise is to be able to deal with a state of emergency which has been caused by a wildfire in the countryside, particularly within the context of the summer period having started, when such dangers are greater,” Papatheodorou said.
Deputy director of the Cyprus fire service Polyvios Hadjivassiliou said the key objective of the exercise, which also saw the Ikaros plan put in action includinig the involvement of the British bases, is to improve operational readiness, to evaluate the effectiveness of the entire firefighting mechanism and reduce overall response time.
“We are aiming to achieve the desired level of cooperation and coordination of all land and air forces and with the involvement of all of the state’s services,” Hadjivassiliou said.
“This includes the forestry department, the environment department, Civil Defence, various district offices, the police force, the national guard, the British bases, the ambulance service, volunteer groups and more,” he added.