The fire brigade’s budget for 2024 is €12 million higher than it was last year, Public Order Minister Marios Hartsiotis said on Thursday.

Speaking to the House internal affairs committee, he said the government has now entered the second phase of its fire prevention and response and crisis management operation, with the first phase having been implemented last year.

The second phase, he said, will lead to the fire brigade achieving “full operational readiness”, with progress towards this aim continuing throughout this year and into the next.

Part of these plans includes the installation of 15 electrooptical sensors, which are due to be purchased in 2025, while infrastructure related to a planned fleet of unmanned fire-detecting aircraft is expected to be complete by the end of 2028.

Asked by Akel MP Aristos Damianou if he is satisfied with the response to recent wildfires which broke out in Cyprus, he said the various teams involved “gave their best to save human lives and limit damage to property.”

“If we had twice as many staff and technical means, maybe things could have been better. Under the circumstances, with the available means, the best possible job was done,” he said.

He also revealed that the government now has evidence of the fire which broke out in Farmakas having broken out at an electricity transformer, by way of a video and eyewitness statements from the scene.

The fire brigade and the electricity authority (EAC) had found themselves at odds over how the fire broke out, with the fire brigade insisting that it had started at an electricity transformer, and the EAC saying the island’s electricity network was “not responsible”.

“EAC’s position is that its network is not responsible because the fire broke out at 4pm and everyone [in the area] still had electricity at the time. Logically, if a fuse had blown at a transformed, the power supply would have also been interrupted,” she had said on Sunday.

She added that in fact, the area’s power supply had remained live until two and a half hours after the fire broke out, saying it is EAC’s belief that the power outage was caused by the fire and not the other way around.

In addition to the cause of the fires, Hartsiotis on Thursday also spoke about the fire brigade’s new hires, with a total of 251 new firefighters having officially joined the brigade on Monday.

This, he says, brings the total number of firefighters on the island to 912, which is the largest number of active firefighters ever recorded in Cyprus.

Meanwhile, agriculture ministry director-general Andreas Grigoriou said other infrastructure projects are underway with the aim of fighting fires.

He said the forestry department has installed four special cameras, each with the ability to spot fires anywhere within a 10-kilometre radius of their location.

He also said that four drones are being utilised to carry out forest surveillance missions during peak times, with the aim of preventing forest fires and providing the authorities and the public with early warning of fires which have started.