In the last 15 years good results have been achieved in reducing damage caused by wildfires. This is best demonstrated by the statistics presented in Table 1. Fortunately the same holds true for the 1995 forest fire season. Up to the 15 September 1995 there have been 16 fires, and the burned area was 36 ha – exempt the large wildfire described below.
Wildfire of the Pentadaktylos Range: In 1995 the island of Cyprus experienced the second worst wildfire since 1886. The worst fire occurred in July 1974 burning an area of 21,600 ha but the anomalous political conditions at that year could have been a good explanation.
The fire broke out on Tuesday, 27 June 1995, around noon at Palaiosofo village of the Pentadaktylos range (Fig.1).The area is inaccessible to Cyprus government. In other words, the Cyprus government was unable to undertake the fighting task which has been undertaken by the Turkish Cypriot side and troops from the mainland of Turkey.
Fig.1. Map of the wildfire of 27-29 June 1995 on the Pentadaktylos Range (Cyprus)
The adverse meteorological conditions on that day (strong winds up to 15 m/s) and the mountainous terrain coupled with the limited resources available to tackle the fire made the fire fighting task extremely difficult. The strong winds were responsible for developing serious spotting ahead of the main fire front resulting in a quick spread over a large area.
On Wednesday morning forces from the British sovereign bases in Cyprus (forty fire fighters, five fire engines and two helicopters) joined the efforts to fight the fire. Most importantly, however, their support included provision of technical assistance and coordination. The fire was under control on Thursday, 29 June 1995, around 14:00. Unfortunately figures concerning personnel and equipment mobilized are not known. The cause of fire is not known either.
The fire spread over the area of 12 villages burning approximately an area of 8-9,000 ha (figure below) including both forest and agricultural land. The resulting damage included 25 burned and 21 damaged houses. It was fortunate that there was not any life loss or severe injury.
The environmental impact of the fire and its impact on the standard of living for Cypriots are pretty obvious. A beautiful Mediterranean landscape has been transformed into a desert-like one, valuable forest resources have disappeared, the habitats of indigenous species have been affected, and there was extensive damage to archaeological sites and monuments, just to mention a few. But in such cases it is even possible that there must be inconceivable ecological impacts that can not be tackled. The major forest vegetation types included: Pine stands (Pinus brutia), Cypress stands (Cupressus sempervirens), Maquis (Pistacia spp., Arbutus spp., Genista spp.); and Garrique (Sarcopoterium spp., Thymus spp.).
Tab.1. Decadal fire data of Cyprus between 1960 and 1994
From: Department of Forests
Ministry of Agriculture, Natural
Resources and Environment
1414 Nicosia, CYPRUS