The island’s Cabinet on Wednesday appointed the agriculture ministry’s Permanent Secretary Andreas Gregoriou, as the responsible coordinator for activating mechanisms for the prevention and response to forest fires, which blight the island on an annual basis.

Government Spokesman Constantinos Letymbiotis, in his statements after the meeting, said that, in view of the upcoming dangerous summer season, “it is imperative that all involved state services and local authorities intensify efforts, on the one hand, to take preventive measures to avoid the possibility of fires and, on the other hand, to ensure full preparedness for their effective response”.

Letymbiotis noted that the involved ministries of Agriculture, Justice, Interior and Defence have prepared specific action plans which are implemented on a case-by-case basis, and that the aim is to promote a holistic planning.

Gregoriou will be assigned the responsibility to mobilise the national firefighting system, Letymbiotis said, and in particular, he will be able to mobilise air assets based on the national crisis management plans.

According to Letymbiotis, the special coordinator will have the general command regarding the dispersion, movements, and deployment of forces during firefighting, regardless of the service they belong to, while indicating the point in time at which the European Civil Protection Mechanism or interstate agreements must be activated.

He added that if a fire incident requires the creation of a crisis management team, either locally or centrally, the coordinator will have the operational command.

Asked about the aircraft needed in these operations, Letymbiotis said that the receiving committee has already been appointed, and that the necessary checks will be carried out, and if they meet the required specifications, the aircraft will be received.