In case of a Forest Fire Call' 1407
According to forest fire statistics, 9 out of 10 forest fires are of human-caused origin.
The main causes of forest fires are:
- Agricultural activities like burning grass-gorse or stubble.
- Throwing of burning cigarettes end or matches.
- Lighting of fires in restricted areas.
- Burning of wastes and garbage at non-authorized landfill sites.
- Military exercises.
- Hunting activities.
- Residential activities like the use of electrical tools that cause sparks and burn of wastes.
- Short-circuit of power lines.
3. Impacts of forest fires
Forest fires don't just have an impact on the environment, but on economy, society, and human health. Forest fires leave a visual impact, causing damage to houses and other properties, environmental destruction, damage to local and national economies and the potential for loss of life.
Fires in Cyprus are distinguished in terms of legal responsibility to the following categories:
Forest fires include all fires occurring or expanding within the State forest or within two (2) kilometers from the boundaries of the State forest or any fire which by the discretion of the Director of the Department of Forests may jeopardize any state forest.
Rural fires include all fires occurring in the countryside, at a distance over two kilometers from the State forest boundaries. According to the “Law for the prevention and control of fires in rural areas”, the prevention and suppression of such fires is under the responsibility of the District Administrations
5. Prevention measures
Includes all actions and measures aimed at reducing or eliminating the potential for a fire outbreak.
The main prevention measures taken are the following:
1. Law enforcement
Any person who:
(a) lights a fire within the State forest or within two kilometers (2 miles) from the State forest boundaries, or
(b) abandons unquenchable fire which has been lit by herself / himself in the State forest or within two kilometers (2 miles) from the State forest boundaries, or
(c) discards lighted match, cigarette or other object that may cause fire in the State forest or within two kilometers (2 miles) from the State forest boundaries, or
(d) causes fire in State forest or within two kilometers (2 miles) from the State forest boundaries as a result of reckless or negligent act or omission to take all necessary precautions,
is guilty of an offense and in the case of conviction she / he is subject to imprisonment not exceeding five (5) years or a fine not exceeding twenty five thousand euro (€ 25.000,00) or both such fine and imprisonment.
2. Information campaigns
An information campaign aiming at educating the public, particularly young people is organised annually. Moreover, during the fire season messages are broadcasted through radio and television, to raise public awareness.
3. Picnic and camping sites
In order to avoid the risk of uncontrolled fire ignitions by people visiting forested areas for recreation purposes, numerous picnic and camping sites had been established.
Throughout the fire season, regular patrols are organized, mostly along the boundaries of the State forest where most fires start. The aims of patrols are public information, enforcement of the law and detection and timely intervention in case of fire.
5. Fire danger mapping
Fire danger mapping is done on a daily basis, using meteorological data that are collected from a network of automatic weather stations installed for this purpose in different locations all over Cyprus.
6. Pre-suppression measures
Includes all actions and measures aimed at reducing the likelihood of spread of a potential fire and at facilitating the efforts of effective fire suppression. 2. Forest roads
The main pre-suppression measures taken are the following:
1. Fire breaks
Fire breaks are designed to interrupt the continuity of fuels. In case of fire, the fire breaks normally will slow the rate of spread, thus enabling the ground fire fighting forces to reach the head of the fire and suppress it easily and with relative safety.
Within State forests there is a good road network. Forest roads are necessary and extremely important both for forest management and fire protection purposes.
3. Forest telecommunications
The Forestry Department maintains its own independent telephone network, mainly used for the coordination of prevention, detection and suppression activities. This network includes repeaters and radiotelephones placed in all forest stations, fire lookout stations, fire engines and personnel vehicles. In addition, all forest officers are equipped with portable radiotelephones.
4. Forest Stations
Forest stations are located in forested areas all over the island and are manned by both permanent and seasonal staff.
5. Silvicultural treatments
Silvicultural treatments aim at reducing the risk of ignition and spreading rate of fires. These include pruning, thinning and clearing of vegetation along forest and intercity roads, as well as, in areas where there is a high risk of fire ignition.
7. Detection and reporting of forest fires
Includes all actions and measures aimed at forming a mechanism able to quickly detect, locate and report a potential fire, enhancing timely attack and extinction.
The main detection and reporting measures taken are the following:
1. Fire lookout stations
Fire lookout stations are placed in strategic locations, usually at the top of mountains. During the fire season these stations are staffed with experienced observers and enable continues monitoring for potential fires on a 24-hour basis.
2. Automatic fire detection system
For the systematic monitoring for potential fires within the Akamas National Forest Park, an Automatic fire detection system had been installed. This system was installed with the financial support of the European Union.
3. Reporting of forest fires through the telephone number 1407
The public may report the existence of forest fires through the telephone number 1407, which operates free of charge on a 24-hour basis.
8. Suppression measures
The suppression of forest fires is a complex, difficult and dangerous work that requires specialized knowledge, education and organisation. Suppression includes all actions and measures aimed at facilitating rapid intervention and effective suppression of a potential fire.
The main suppression measures taken are the following:
1. Forest fire fighting task force
At the beginning of every fire season, the body of forest fire fighting task force is organized. Forest fire fighters, split-up into groups of 6-15 individuals and are then positioned into different forest stations. Each group is provided with fire engines, personnel vehicles, radiotelephones and fire fighting tools and equipment.
2. Stand-by of forest officers
Throughout the fire season, a number of forest officers remain on duty on a rotation basis. In case of a fire, they lead the forest fire fighting task force to the scene of the fire and organise and coordinate the suppression operation.
3. The Cyprus Forestry College
The lecturers, students and forest fire fighters of the Cyprus Forestry College, form a well-organised firefighting force. Similarly to forest officers, the personnel of the college remain on duty on a rotation basis during the fire season. The college is equipped with cross country vehicles, fire engines, radiotelephones and fire fighting tools.
4. Fire engines
The Department of Forests has a significant number of fire engines which are manned by experienced forest fire fighters. These fire engines are distributed to the different forest stations.
5. Personnel vehicles
Cross country vehicles are used in case of fire for the transfer of forest officers and the forest fire fighting task force. Most of these are 4 wheel drive vehicles, which makes them very agile on forest roads and off-road conditions as well, but also on accessible fire breaks. They are equipped with radio telephones and fire fighting tools.
The Department of Forests owns a number of tractors (bulldozers). These, are mainly used for the construction and maintenance of forest roads and fire breaks. In case of a fire incident they are used in active fire fighting through the construction of fire breaks.
In almost all forest stations, warehouses can be found in which the necessary fire fighting tools and equipment are stored.
8. Fire protection systems
Fire protection systems are installed in forested areas where large numbers of people may concentrate, such as picnic and camping sites. These systems consist of a number of fire nests which are continually supplied with water from existing pipes or water tanks (water reservoirs).
9. Water tanks and hydrants
In case of a forest fire, it is of great importance the fast refilling of the fire engines with water. For this purpose, a network of water tanks is constructed in most forested areas and hydrants and water valves are installed.
Numerous heliports can be found within or near forested areas. These, in case of emergency can be used for the landing of helicopters transferring fire fighters, supplies and people injured during fire fighting.
11. Aerial means
Fighting of fires using aerial means such as aeroplanes and helicopters has been practised with good results during the last decade. For the suppression of forest fires, the two aeroplanes owned by the Department of Forests are used. Additionally a number of fire fighting helicopters leased by the Government of Cyprus, are also used. The police helicopters and helicopters of the British Base in Cyprus are also used whenever needed. In the case of large fires, aerial firefighting is further reinforced with air means from countries of the European Union and other neighboring countries.
12. Cooperation with other agencies and the public
According to the Action Plan adopted by the Council of Ministers during 1994, the Department of Forests of the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment has the full legal, administrative and technical responsibility for extinguishing forest fires. There is continuous cooperation between the Department of Forests and other Government Services which are involved in the fighting, such as the Fire Service, the District Administration, the Police, the Civil Defense, the Game Fund and the National Guard. This cooperation aims at the best possible organisation and efficient fire fighting, primarily of large scale fires in our island. There is also a close collaboration with the Civil Aviation, the United Nations Force (UNFICYP), the British Base in Cyprus, and Municipal Authorities.
9. Frequently Asked Questions
1. Question: Which months are considered as risky for forest fires?
Answer: The period May – October each year is considered as particularly dangerous for ignition and spreading of forest fires. According to forest fire statistics, June and July are considered as the most risky months for forest fires.
2. Question: How could we prevent forest fires?
Answer: We should always be very careful during our visits to forested areas. We should never throw burning cigarette ends or matches and in no case we should set a fire for any reason. Lighting of fires is permitted only in the barbeque grills which can be found within the picnic sites.
3. Question: What should we do in case of a fire?
Answer: In case of a forest fire we should immediately report it to the Department of Forests through the telephone number 1407 (free call on a 24-hour basis). It is important to stay calm and try to extinguish the fire using any means we have in our disposal. Throw water or soil on the base of the fire or strike the fire using green branches. It is very easy to suppress a fire during its early stages.
4. Question: What are the provisions of the law regarding the illegal setting of a forest fire?
Answer: According to the Forest Law is considered as an offence:
a. The lighting a fire for any reason within the State forest or at a radius of one kilometer from the State forest boundaries.
b. The abandonment of a lit fire within the State forest or at a radius of one kilometer from the State forest boundaries.
c. Throwing burning cigarette ends, matches or any other object that may cause a fire, within the State forest or at a radius of one kilometer from the State forest boundaries.
d. Causing a fire as a result of thoughtless or carelessness behavior.
The sentence provided for offenders is up to five years imprisonment or a fine up to € 8.550, or both.
5. Question: How can we protect our house which is located within a forested area?
Answer: We should take a series of prevention measures as described in the brochure “Living with wild fires – Protection of houses within or near forest areas” (click here to download).