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Paphos forest shut off for safety amid red alert for fire risk

fire engine 05
File photo

Ninety per cent of the Paphos forest has been closed off from public access due to extreme fire risk, Forestry Department Director, Charalambos Alexandrou announced on Friday.

“We are always at our battle stations during the summer season but today we are literally with our fingers poised above the trigger,” Alexandrou told the CyBC, expressing the state of extreme readiness and hyper vigilance of the various services due to the prevailing heatwave.

Cyprus on Friday had a red alert for fire risk and an orange alert for extremely high temperatures.

Alexandrou noted that the main mountain arteries from Kykkos Monastery to Stavros tis Psokas, and Lysos to Stavros tis Psokas, were currently still open but all secondary roads are closed to the public in an effort to curtail chances of fires set by human activity.

Even forestry department clearance works have been halted due to the high danger from heat emission of tools and the soaring levels of humidity, the director said.

All stations and observatories are manned and drones are being used to keep utmost vigilance.

“We don’t have the numbers we would ideally like to have, but we are doing everything we can within the scope of our means,” Alexandrou said.

Meanwhile, already in the mountain community of Kalo Chorio Klirou in the Nicosia district, a fire caused by sparks from electricity wires was dealt with, the director told the state broadcaster.

Alexandrou highlighted the frustration felt by fire prevention services over incidents caused by lack of infrastructure maintenance by the electricity authority (EAC).

“For 15 years we have been working to get the EAC to take on their share of the responsibility for fires caused by lack of maintenance,” Alexandrou said, adding that in other countries, such as the US, this is a matter of course.

Alexandrou did not confirm whether the Kalo Chorio fire, which he said happened near a military camp by Pharmakas, was caused by naked wires, a surge, or other electrical fault.

The fires services brought the fire which broke out at 7.30am under full control a little over an hour later, by 8.40am.

Seventeen forestry employees with four fire engines, as well as three fire servicemen with one fire engine, worked to put out the blaze while forces remain in the area on the alert for flare-ups.

Over 8,000 square metres of land covered with wild vegetation was burned.

The exact causes of the fire are being investigated.

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