Large-scale public Midsummer events are canceled this year, although large piles of firewood have already cropped up at bonfire sites in many places. Volunteer rescuers in Palivere, for example, plan on burning their firewood this month already so as not to leave it to tempt anyone on the night of Midsummer's Eve.
Large-scale Midsummer bonfires are banned this year to prevent the potential spread of the novel coronavirus, but firewood has already piled up at public bonfire sites across Estonia in anticipation of the national holiday. The woodpile in the Lääne County borough of Palivere, for example, is substantial. But no public Midsummer bonfire will be held there this year.
"As we've had Midsummer celebrations here involving 500-1,000 participants, we clearly cannot organize this," said Andrus Eilpuu, a member of the Palivere Borough Society. "Regarding this bonfire, it is important that people bring all of their yard waste here. If this were all to remain here until Midsummer's Eve, then somebody would light it on Midsummer's Eve anyway. And I believe that no village society is gonna start patrolling and banning anything on Midsummer's Eve. Better to do it in a controlled manner. Right now we're planning [on burning it] toward the end of the month with local volunteer firefighters."
Each year, hundreds of bonfires are lit at public sites across Estonia on Midsummer's Eve or Day, speak nothing of smaller bonfires. According to the Rescue Board, piles of bonfire material are not required to be burned ahead of time, however if locals find that this would be the safer route, they are permitted to do so.
"That is indeed one solution," said Tagne Tähe, director of the Rescue Board's Safety Oversight Department. "If the desire is to burn it ahead of time to ensure that it doesn't tempt anyone on the night of Midsummer's Eve, then indeed, if local volunteer rescuers come help and resolve the situation in a safe manner, then that is indeed one opportunity."
Eilpuu suspects that the cancellation of larger public bonfires will lead to an increase in the number of smaller bonfires. This in turn, however, may put the capabilities of local volunteer firefighters to the test. To avoid such a situation, the Rescue Board recommends that anyone lighting a bonfire keep buckets of water handy and keep a close eye on the fire.
"And once Midsummer has been celebrated, then it must certainly be the case, as rescuers themselves say, that the last one there extinguishes the fire — that the fire is not left to burn unattended," Tähe stressed.
Editor: Aili Vahtla