Fire Fighting in Cyprus!

I haven’t noticed  many fires this year in Cyprus at least not in the Paphos area however, today was a different story and 2 helicopters were flying overhead carrying water from the sea to put out the fire.

Following some on-line investigation I discovered that the fire was located between Droushia and Kritou Terra.  These names may be familiar to many of you if you have taken a drive over to Polis and Latchi when visiting Cyprus as the villages aren’t too far from Kathikas.

Fire is by far the most destructive single agent, threatening the forests of Cyprus and no real progress can be made in Forest Development unless the forests are adequately protected. The long hot and very dry summers together with the frequent strong winds, and the inflammability of the vegetation favour the outbreak and quick spread of fires. Furthermore the urbanisation, the abandonment of rural areas and the increased number of visitors in the forest for recreation raise the fire hazard to very high levels.

Main Causes of Fires in Cyprus

The biggest percentage of forest fires in Cyprus and especially the most destructive ones are of human origin.  Nearly 87% of these fires are due to negligence or lack of care and attention and less than 13% are attributed to incendiarism.  The main causes of forest fires (based on the last years records) are:

  • Burning grass – gorse or stubble by farmers
  • Fires caused by careless visitors and picnickers when using fire for cooking and grilling.
  • Burning cigarette ends and matches used by careless smokers
  • Military exercises with ammunition or explosives of any kind
  • Hunting during the summer period
  • Burning of rubbish at non organised rubbish dumps
  • Fires caused by people or machines engaged in any activity associated with forest engineering and forest production
  • Some fires are caused by lightning but these fires are not significant because these fires are usually accompanied by rainfall

Fire Fighting


Aerial firefighting of forest fires has been applied successfully and effectively in Cyprus. For the suppression of fires two aeroplanes from the Department of Forests are used. Additionally, the Government of Cyprus rent a number of helicopters which are also used for this purpose  Helicopters belonging to the Police and the British Bases are also used depending on the size of the fire to be tackled.  In cases of big forest fires, Cyprus obtain help from Europe and other countries.


The helicopters used for fire fighting carry buckets, in this case a rain maker bucket, (see picture below) it is a specialised bucket suspended on a cable carried to deliver water for aerial firefighting.   Each bucket has a release valve on the bottom which is controlled by the helicopter crew.  When the helicopter is in position, the crew releases the water to extinguish or suppress the fire below. Each release of the water is referred to as a drop.  The design of the buckets allows the helicopter to hover over a water source – such as a lake, river, pond, or tank – and in this case in Cyprus “the sea” and lower the bucket into the water to refill it.  This then allows the helicopter crew to operate the bucket in remote locations without the need to return to a permanent operating base, reducing the time between successive drops.


Helicopter flying over our house in Coral Bay – photograph by Fionna Morley

Buckets can be collapsible or rigid and vary in capacity from 60 to 2,165 imperial gallons; or 273 to 9,842 litres. The size of each bucket is determined by the lifting capacity of the helicopter.

For the quick detection of forest fires,  a modern automatic system for the detection of fires has been installed in some locations in Cyprus.   The system covers the important Area of Akamas and in case of fire the system automatically informs the surveillance centre for the existence of fire and at the same time the starting point of the fire is mapped. This automatic system is operating day and night even under conditions of limited visibility (fog and cloud).

So don’t forget if you ever visit Cyprus in the summer season when all the vegetation is dry please think before creating a naked flame – from a match to a cigarette and if you do make sure you dispose of it correctly.

All photographs taken by me 



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