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Zero tolerance for fireworks madness

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The Justice and Agriculture Ministries have vowed to increase punishments for those found guilty of causing fires by letting off fireworks “dangerously and irresponsibly” following an increase in such incidents.

They propose introducing a €10,000 fine for people using fireworks without permission.

The unlicensed sale and use of fireworks is illegal, although their use is widespread.

Firefighters were called to intervene when fireworks were thrown during a wedding reception in Lofou, Limassol, on Saturday.

Although the small fire was quickly under control, it caused some panic among guests.

Fire department spokesperson Andreas Kettis said fires caused by fireworks are rising.

Justice Minister Anna Procopiou told state broadcaster CyBC that using fireworks in the current climate conditions should be avoided at all costs.

“In this heat, we need to act responsibly and avoid taking unnecessary risks, such as using fireworks,” Procopiou said.

The Justice Ministry is working on increasing fines for people using fireworks without securing a permit.

Permission is granted by the governmental mines service, which also publishes a daily list of events that were granted permission to use fireworks on its website.

“Observing the effects of climate change and mindful of the catastrophic consequences that wildfires have caused in our country in recent years, the government places the continuous evaluation and reinforcement of fire protection among its top priorities,” Procopiou said.

She said that apart from increasing fines for people using fireworks without permission, a Firewatch scheme is being promoted.

The idea is to get the 118,000 members of the Neighbourhood Watch program actively involved in reporting fires and possible fire risks.

“Its potential help in matters related to fire safety will be instrumental in preventing and tackling wildfires and their devastating consequences.

“Fire safety needs to be everyone’s priority and needs to start from our neighbourhoods.

“For example, the use of fireworks needs to be reported immediately to prevent further incidents,” she said.

The Agriculture Ministry said that the fireworks used at the wedding that started the fire in Lofou were not licenced.

It said the use of the fireworks “was illegal, and no permit was issued by the competent authority, which is the mining service”.

Starting a forest fire carries a 10-year maximum prison sentence, a fine of up to €50,000, or both.

Anyone who spots smoke or fire is urged to call 1407 (Department of Forests) or 112 (Fire Service).