By Andria Kades and Jonathan Shkurko

The fire raging since 9.50am on Wednesday in the Limassol state forest, between the villages of Vasas Kellakiou and Asgata, has been brought under control.

Firefighters will remain in the area overnight to prevent any rekindling of the fire, although the Met Office has forecasted a decrease in wind intensity.

Some residents of the Vasas Kellakiou village were evacuated earlier in the afternoon and they have not yet returned to their homes, according to reports.

Strong winds hampered the firefighting service efforts, which had over 150 members of the Fire Service, the forestry department, the civil defence and the Game Fund fighting the flames.

Earlier in the day, Agriculture Minister Maria Panayiotou rushed to the scene, while more forces were being called in to combat the flames.

She also ordered an official investigation into the causes of the fire, following reports that it may have been triggered by a human error during the destruction of munitions in a nearby quarry.

“I have instructed the director general of the agriculture ministry to conduct an investigation and consider the possibility of suspending the director of the mines and quarry service,” she added.

Responding to complaints from residents about the delayed dispatch of aerial firefighting resources, the minister reminded of the government’s decision to purchase ten firefighting planes over a five-year period.

“As we anticipate a very difficult summer, we all must be extremely cautious and avoid any actions that may cause a fire.”

Panayiotou also said that the civil defence has informed residents to be ready for evacuation if necessary.

“The community leaders of the nearby villages have been informed, in case there is a need to evacuate people.”

The forestry department also deployed an aircraft, while a helicopter from the British bases and police were called in for reinforcements.

The fire broke out at the Parekklisia state forest on Wednesday morning at around 9:50am.

According to initial estimates, the fire burned about one square kilometre of wild vegetation and pine trees. A complete assessment of the area will be conducted on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the forestry department announced that on the same day three other forest fires have been brought under control in the villages of Peristerona, near Paphos, near Larnaca, and Limnithou, near Limassol.