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Firefighter injured as large fire rages near Ayios Mamas (Update 2)

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Photo by Michalis Michael at Kairofiloi Kyprou

A firefighter was slightly injured during efforts to put out a large forest fire that broke out near the Ayios Mamas community in Limassol on Wednesday afternoon.

The fire is raging in an area where access is difficult urging the fire service to activate the Ikaros 2 contingency plan which includes aircraft.

Efforts to extinguish it will continue overnight as those have been hindered by strong winds and the lack of roads in the area, the forestry department said.

“Those who were working today’s shift instead of going home have all come to the fire so that we can cover the entire perimeter,” Forestry Department Director Charalambos Alexandrou told CNA.

His statements came as photos circulating online showed the fire has spread to a wooden house. It was immediately unclear whether the structure concerned a storage room or a residence.

About five hours after the fire broke out, there was a slight improvement, but the fire remained out of control. Later at night the forestry department said the fronts were contained and the fire is “manageable”.

During efforts to put out the blaze, one of the over 200 freighters on site slipped and was injured. He was transferred to the Limassol general hospital with doctors saying the injury was minor.

“We still have our fears because there is a very large perimeter of the fire, especially towards the river side, which starts about 1 to 1.5 km from Pelendri to the road leading from Kalo Chorio to Ayios Mamas,” he said, explaining ground forces must be deployed across the entire perimeter.

The nine aircraft which were on site had to stop operations as soon as it got dark, while the ground units were reinforced at night.

To contain the flare-ups on the river side, a road is being opened so firefighters can get closer, Alexandrou said.

“We will do our best to prevent the fire from entering the river, or the game will be lost,” he said.

Alexandrou stressed that the main difficulty was that authorities could not contain it as soon as it started because there was no road to approach the fire front. “We made several attempts to approach it from the sides. It was not possible…until we decided that the deployment of our forces would be from Pelendri to the south, at which point the effort began to pay off,” he noted.

Meanwhile, a helicopter participating in extinguishing efforts recorded a technical issue and had to release its bucket to land safely, the forestry department director said. Reports suggested the helicopter landed at the Limnitis stadium.

The fire, which broke out at 3.13pm, has burned at least one square kilometre of forest land and wild vegetation, the forestry director estimated.

As of Wednesday night, no residences were in danger.

At least 30 fire engines were on site along with four airplanes, a forestry department aircraft and four helicopters which were operating during the day.

Volunteers were also at the scene to assist firefighters’ efforts.

Regarding the causes of the fire, Alexandrou said investigations will be carried out, without excluding the possibility that it was set maliciously. He stressed that it started south of Kalo Chorio, not on the roadside where a pile of garbage was found.

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