Drone footage from Paphos appears to show that the fire which devasted the Polemi area earlier in the week could have started at an illegal landfill, raising concerns that rampant fly-tipping in the countryside could potentially prove to be a significant danger during heatwaves especially.

The drone footage was posted by the web outlet Paphos Life on YouTube.

In the video it can clearly be seen that on one edge of the landfill, there is no damaged vegetation but from the other three sides, burnt areas fan out in three directions up the slope. This suggests the flames did not sweep through the entire dump as it they would have had the fire originated elsewhere but only spread out from that one point.

Close to two dozen homes were affected by the two days of wildfires in the Paphos area that broke out on Tuesday with flames destroying five homes completely. Around 15 houses were affected in Psathi, of which two were destroyed. In Polemi, four homes were affected, of which two were destroyed, while another two were affected in Choulou, of which one was destroyed. Damage was also sustained by a 150 KW photovoltaic park.

Around 13 square kilometres in total was destroyed, according to reports on Friday after the dust had settled and damage recording was completed.

Authorities are still looking into the cause of the fire but it has already been suggested that the landfill was being looked at after a witness reported it as being a factor.

Chief fire officer Nikos Logginos told Cybc earlier in the week that an eyewitness reported the fire began in an illegal rubbish dump.

Fire service spokesman Andreas Kettis has said there had been information and indications that were “being evaluated by the police and the fire service based on their expertise”.

The Green Party has also referred to the issue of illegal landfills and their contribution to rural fires saying: “Responsibilities must also be sought for the huge issue of uncontrolled landfills and the uncontrolled accumulation of household waste. Our daily struggle and the highlighting of the problem of illegal dumps are not taken into account.”

Authorities have pointed out that dry wild vegetation surrounding homes was a major factor in their endangerment, as well as illegal rubbish dumps, pervasive throughout the island.

Reiterating how the fire was possibly caused by illegal dumping, Agriculture Minister Maria Panayiotou on Wednesday underscored the need for responsibility and vigilance among citizens to prevent such criminal actions. She also mentioned government’s efforts to deter illegal waste dumping with stricter penalties.

At the same time, a CM reader, a resident of Tsada, which is around 8km southwest of Polemi, expressed concern over an illegal dump in the area which he said was being ignored for months despite communication with the local council, the environment department and the deputy ministry of tourism.

“The materials being dumped can be self-igniting,” the resident said. “The area near us is sees a lovely canyon looking out to sea now a dangerous toxic dumping site.”

The resident provided an email chain with various authorities since May, pointing out the dangers. In its email, the deputy ministry of tourism passed the buck to the local council.

“This has not been resolved and it, to the best of our knowledge, has not been cleared but been added to by environmental criminals in our community,” he said.

An inspection of the area by residents on May 6, showed that clearing had not been done and there was at least one new pile of old broken air conditioners together with general household rubbish. The old air conditioners can contain CFC gases that are banned internationally and by the EU, he said.

“It is yet another disaster waiting to happen. The threat to human life, the destruction of private property, the killing of wildlife, and the destruction of natural habitat, as well as the huge amount of resources that are required to put out fires such as we have just seen, simply cannot be justified because of the lack of concern being demonstrated by those people who have a responsibility to keep their community safe,” the resident added.  

He said residents were now left with no option than to bring the issue to the attention of the EU.

“We have tried to internalise this issue but no positive action has occurred to this day,” he said. “Cyprus worldwide promoting itself as a top tourist destination, however, we feel ashamed to take visitors on country walks.”

A spokesperson for Tsada community council told the Cyprus Mail on Friday the issue of the illegal dump was being dealt with even before the Polemi fire. In recent weeks, most councils had also had to deal with upcoming elections.

“We have received a letter from the department of the environment and we are sorting it out,” the spokesperson said. “Clearing will begin on Monday and any residents that wish are invited to be present.”

The spokesperson said Tsada was one of the councils that encouraged people to report fly-tipping immediately and anonymously if they wished. “But only a few people do,” they said. There were some residents willing to help with clearing as well, the spokesperson said, and they were always welcome.

As far at people being told to clean up their private properties or fields, they said, this was often an uphill battle with complaints over the cost, which they said, was not actually very high.

The spokesperson said much more was needed in terms of raising awareness among the public islandwide as to how they can help prevent rural fires such as the one that devastated neighbouring villages during the week.  “It’s not quite fair to always put everything on the mayors,” they said.