Damage caused by wildfires will get worse over time due to Cyprus’ topography, vegetation and climate change, among others, Director of the Forestry Department Charalambos Alexandrou said.
Fires are not just the biggest threat for forests but the worst kind of natural disaster, “we have to understand that above all fires are a threat to human lives,” Alexandrou said.
He explained that there are four factors that lead to intensification of the problem:
- The fact that people are abandoning rural areas, leads to the accumulation of many unsupervised combustible materials. Former agricultural lands that used to serve as a firebreak, are now full of combustible wild vegetation.
- The increased number of people visiting forests for recreational activities.
- The unplanned construction of houses in forest areas.
- Climate change which, according to research, will lead to more wildfires in Cyprus and the Mediterranean in general.
Wildfires in 2018:
According to 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. However, the hectares of land burned in 2018 was down 24% compared to the average in 2000-2017.
One reason that wildfires have increased is that in 2018 there were more cases of arson than other years, as other causes that lead to wildfires were at average levels, Alexandrou said.
- 207 (35%) wildfires in forests in 2018 were caused by agricultural activities.
- 107 wildfires (18%) were caused by recreational activities.
- 69 (12%) were caused by domestic activities.
- 53 (9%) were caused by military activities.
- 45 (8%) were caused by people who were on excursions in forests.
- 30 (5%) were caused by burning waste.
- 29 (5%) were caused by electricity short-circuits.
- 16 (3%) were caused by activities of hunters.
- 11 (2%) were caused by works in the forests.
- 8 (1%) were caused by car rallies.
- 9 (2%) were caused by other reasons.