There has been a spike in the number of fires set deliberately in the Akamas in the past four years, despite stepped up efforts to catch perpetrators, Phileleftheros reported on Wednesday.
It said that authorities were concerned with the number of fires in the pristine peninsula in the past four years. The time at which the fires break out and the discovery of evidence pointing to arson has prompted authorities to step up patrols and beef up fire fighting capabilities.
The Forestry Department, police and the Game service carry out foot and mechanised patrols in the area round the clock, while new technology is also used to monitor the situation.
According to Forestry Department statistics obtained by Phileleftheros, there have been 17 fires in the Akamas from the start of the year until September 15 — most recently on Monday when a fire broke out on three fronts in the Peyia forest.
Of these 73% were set deliberately, 9% were a result of agricultural activities while the cause for 18% remain unclear and are being investigated by police.
Phileleftheros said fires this year in the Akamas have torched nearly 15 hectares of land.
In 2018, there were 42 fires in the Akamas of which 97% were malicious, Phileleftheros said. A total of 119.7 hectares of land were burned.
As is the case this year, evidence was also found last year that the fires were the result of arson.
There have been attempts by authorities to find and arrest the perpetrators but with no success.
The number of forest fires set maliciously in the Akamas has jumped since 2017 (15 fires) whereas in 2016 the number of deliberate fires was even lower with eight of a total of 12 the result of arson.
In 2017, a total of 63.8 hectares of land was burned and in 2016, 33.6 hectares.
Deliberately setting fire to a forest, state or private, is punishable with up to 14 years in prison.