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.

Representatives from Cyprus’s Forestry Department, Fire Service and the Civil Defence met this week at the countries Presidential Palace to discuss firefighting measures, aiming to improve coordination of fire response planning as the country braces for the summer fire season.

The groups agreed to meet weekly to coordinate each agencies responses, after excessive rain during the Cyprian winter has increased vegetation growth to higher than normal levels.

The joint agencies stated that over two thousand wildland firefighters stand ready to respond during the season along with aerial firefighting assets from the Cyprus Forestry Department having two firefighting airplanes at its disposal.

Each year Cyprus’s Fire Service currently provides two helicopters, the National Guard supplying three helicopters and Cyprus’s national police providing four helicopters on an as needed basis should the country face a large fire threat.

However, services may be stretched thin this year with rotary operations, as two of the police service helicopters will not be available due to being placed out of service for planned maintenance during the summer fire season, with and additional helicopter assigned to search and rescue operations.

The Cyprus Forestry Department, in an effort to continue to providing enough aerial assets, is considering leasing two more aircraft to address this issue.

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