image of a bush fire

It was a few years back that I reported on a fire that could easily have changed our lives forever.

It was at the end of a slow drive home from Limassol that my wife and I were confronted by a blazing spectacle on the side of the highway, twenty feet or so from the highway, but high on the hillside. As we approached our turnoff from the highway it was soon apparent that the fire was bearing down on the small village we live in, our cul-de-sac was in the fire’s direct path. No sooner had we arrived home than we were evacuated to the next village.  So close was the fire that all traffic into the area was stopped or diverted. Our next door neighbour were stopped from entering the village area. Another neighbour received a call from them begging for her to rescue their dogs, trapped in the house. In the one and only time I have done this, I kicked our neighbour’s door in and we bundled the frightened animals into a waiting car.

In the end the fabulous fire services in Cyprus did their job in magnificent style and a disaster was averted. The fire, one of several, was deliberately started by a young man who was unhappy his girlfriend had dumped him. A poor excuse for causing hundreds of thousands of Euros in fire damage. Luckily nobody was hurt. But people do lose their lives from time to time.

In a blatant reminder that we are vulnerable to fire here, more so than earthquakes, last years big fire in the Troodos mountains started small, but built into an inferno. Numerous Fire Tenders and Fire Helicopters/Planes followed and it was days before it was fully under control. Even neighbouring Israel sent in firefighting teams and helicopters from the British base at RAF Akrotiri soon joined in. One one firefighter lost his life. All this because someone gave a child a cigarette lighter to play with, to keep the child amused. The year before was much the same and all due to kids and cigarettes… but then adults and cigarettes are just as bad.

I must admit, I am amazed the island isn’t a cinder as most adults here smoke and throw their stub ends away with reckless abandon.

The oddest fire-starter I actually witnessed was during our first summer in Cyprus. We lived far up in the hills above Paphos in those days, our house looked down into a valley with the opposite side of the valley giving us a beautiful panoramic view. The valley was sparsely dotted with houses and was mainly scrub-land. We would sit out of an afternoon and have a cup of tea as we watched the National Guard air wing on maneuvers, with their Russian built Mil attack helicopters. One lovely summer’s day, when the sun was at its hottest, a Mil helicopter flew through the valley very low. Too low in fact and the helicopter clipped a live electric power line. The helicopter carried on as the snapped cable dropped gracefully, almost in slow motion, to the floor of the valley. The flash as the cable crashed into the wild undergrowth signaled a blaze that suddenly erupted into a huge configuration. The opposite side of the valley to where I sat was soon ablaze. In the end we were in no danger because again the fire service did a superb job, very quickly. But it took days to put the blaze out and four years later the scrub in the valley was still only slowly recovering.

Cyprus can be beautiful but this beauty is open to destructive abuse.

Tom Kane © 2014

As a English expat author living in Cyprus, you may think my life revolves around cocktails by the pool. You would be wrong. In ten years on the island I’ve had my fair share of adventures and interesting experiences.

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