The authorities will remain on full alert for the remainder of the fire season, Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos said yesterday.
Following a discussion over how to better coordinate Cyprus’ firefighting capabilities, Hasikos said that the meeting was the second in a series held to address “a serious problem” which concerns a number of government ministries.
“Following the recent fires there was an evaluation of our fire fighting capabilities and a number of weaknesses were identified.”
The minister confirmed that efforts are underway to resolve issues related to the availability of firefighting vehicles from different government departments during emergencies as well as staff limitations.
He confirmed that a number of volunteers will be recruited to boost the fire services capabilities once they have undergone compulsory training.
“All volunteers must first go through special fire training so they do not put themselves or others in danger during emergencies.”
The minister added that further meetings would take place.
“They will continue until we are certain we can respond to emergencies in the most effective manner possible.”
Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said authorities were on alert after series of recent fires in Paphos and Limassol had been maliciously set.
“Unfortunately it has emerged that these fires were the result of arson attacks which means that now more than ever we must coordinate our services to better prepare for fires. We will not stand by idly while such criminal activity takes place.”
Other recent fires originated in rural rubbish tips, possibly as the result of illegal burning.
“This is yet another serious hazard and we intend to take all necessary measures ensure fires are not started this way.”
Asked if there was information to support rumours that the arson attacks were carried out by people in the north, the minister said this was not the case.
Nicolaou added that Cyprus currently has the means to fight fires but is lacking in effective management and coordination.
“On August 17 three fires broke out simultaneously while throughout the entire day the authorities had to battle five fires. For this reason we need a more coordinated and effective way of managing the situation.”