CYPRUS – This week has been declared Forest Protection Week, the forestry department announced on Monday.
“This summer we are breaking the chain of destruction,” the announcement said. “No spark = No fire”.
During the week, a series of events and activities aim to raise awareness and stress the importance of forests and the need to protect them.
“Forest fires are a threat that falls into the category of natural disasters and are a major and difficult problem that is and should be treated as a security issue. In addition, the fire problem is expected to worsen due to the abandonment of the countryside and climate change.”
According to statistics from the last 20 years, an average of 156 forest fires occur in Cyprus each year, destroying 2,299 hectares, of which 223 hectares are state forests. In the previous year, 99 forest fires were recorded, which burned an area of 733 hectares, of which 106 hectares were state forests.
The report of last year’s firefighting season is considered very positive, since the total number of forest fires that occurred, but mainly the total burned area, was significantly lower than the corresponding averages of the last 20 years, the department said.
However, the above positive results are overshadowed by the very high percentage of malicious fires which in the 20 years 2000-2019 amounted to 23 per cent and which last year reached 33 per cent, which is a particular problem for all the services involved.
This summer is expected to be difficult again due to the growth of vegetation due to abundant rains during the winter.
To combat the fires the forestry department is constructing an aircraft landing strip in Mammari to ensure aircraft can land close to forest fires, and will use six aircraft to extinguish fires.
Two planes from the forestry departments, two leased planes and two leased helicopters will be deployed. In addition, helicopters belonging to the army, police and the British bases will assist.
“Our forests are an invaluable national treasure and heritage and their protection can only be achieved through the collective efforts of the state and its citizens. That is why it is required of each of us individually, more than any other year due to the difficult and peculiar conditions we go through due to the coronavirus, to be very careful in our daily activities in the countryside but also in our visits to the forest areas,” the announcement concluded.