News Local 2,000 people, nine aircraft at authorities' disposal to fight fires this summer

2,000 people, nine aircraft at authorities’ disposal to fight fires this summer

Moving to ensure the best possible coordination in anticipation of a difficult summer, authorities met at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday to discuss firefighting measures.

The Forestry Department, the Met office the Fire Service and the Civil Defence agreed to meet once a week to coordinate their actions, bracing for challenging weeks ahead because of the particularly abundant rains over the winter, which has led to a growth in vegetation.

According to philenews, during the meeting, authorities revealed that around 2,000 people will be working to control and prevent fires.

Regarding aerial firefighting, the Forestry Department has two firefighting airplanes at its disposal, while the Fire Service has two helicopters, the National Guard has three helicopters and police has four helicopters.

However, philenews reports, two of the police helicopters will be down for planned maintenance this summer, while one will be used for search and rescue operations.

The Forestry Department, is considering leasing two more aircraft to address this issue, philenews reports.

The firefighting efforts of the government are regularly aided by the British Bases. Earlier in May, a joint Republic of Cyprus-SBA firefighting exercise took place in Kakopetria.

This summer is a peculiar period due to the abundant rains of the winters, Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides said after the meeting. For this reason authorities have started their operational meetings earlier, in order to be prepared for an expected difficult summer, he added.

This is the first time protocols and memorandums of understanding are signed between authorities, to set jurisdictions and responsibilities, he said.

According to Director of the Forestry Department Charalambos Alexandrou there were 136 wildfires in forests in 2018, which burned 1,036 hectares of land. The number of wildfires in 2018 was up by 80% compared to the average annual  number for the period 2000-2017.

The Forestry Department said that people are to blame for 90% of forest fires.

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