Cyprus Mail

Preparations stepped up ahead of wildfire season

fire by plnetphoto8
The fire in Arakapas in 2021

Preparations are being stepped up across the board ahead of the coming of this year’s wildfire season, Justice Minister Marios Hartsiotis said on Monday.

Speaking at an event to mark the beginning of “fire safety week”, he said the government is now in its second phase of implementing its fire and crisis management system.

The speed of these preparations, he said, will allow Cyprus to achieve “full operational readiness”, with the justice and agriculture ministries both set to submit proposals to cabinet “very soon” regarding the purchase of new equipment.

The new equipment’s purchase will go hand in hand with the planned hiring of a total of 259 new firefighters, which had been announced last week. In addition to the new recruits, Cyprus will this year for the first time have an army of volunteer firefighters to help alongside the professionals.

On the matter of fire safety week, Hartsiotis said its central message this year is “to not let our dreams turn to ashes”.

“This reflects the seriousness of the danger our country faces every fire season,” he said.

“Respect for our natural environment and personal and collective concern for the protection of every corner of our land from all forms of danger is a matter of essential importance for human survival itself, and therefore fire protection measures are all of our responsibility.”

He said the deadly fire which occurred near the Limassol village of Arakapas in 2021was the “trigger” for the creation of the fire and crisis management system, and that the system has seen “modern technological systems” installed and utilised across the island.

He said that those systems allow for the monitoring and early detection of fires, and that the first phase of the system had been put into full operation last summer.

This, he said, “significantly increased the degree of surveillance in Cyprus’ forested areas”.

With the second phase of upgrades now ongoing, he pointed to other improvements made in the name of fire safety, including the 24-hour staffing of the fire stations in the mountain villages of Moniatis and Evrychou.

Hartsiotis said the government plans to construct new fire stations both in rural areas and in urban areas and upgrade a number of existing stations across the island.

In addition, he also pointed out the success of the government’s “fire watcher” scheme, to which over 110,000 people have signed up.

He said fire watchers are “another means of surveillance, not only for early detection and notification in the event of a fire in the area where they live, but also for notification of any untoward or suspicious human activities which may cause fires.”

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