The tragic fire at the Männiku Boarding House in the village of Aa this week happened at a very unfortunate time as strong wind fanned the flames and rescue workers' access to the site was impeded by snowed-in roads. The Transport Authority says that it prioritizes busier roads, while care institutions are often removed from the latter.
Representatives of nursing homes in the village of Aa in Lüganuse Municipality turned to the Transport Authority at the end of last year to ask for roads leading to homes to be given higher priority in terms of maintenance. The reasons given were that elderly people often need an ambulance and workers who use public transport for their commute cannot make it to work if the bus gets stuck on the way, "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported.
Head of the authority's highway maintenance service Raido Randmaa said that the request needs to be considered, while road maintenance considerations are based primarily on traffic density.
"There is a reason for the traffic density criterion. Talking about winter road maintenance, the salt we use to de-ice roads only works under traffic. It will be useless on a road that only sees very light traffic," Randmaa said.
Head of rescue efforts at the Männiku Boarding House fire Kaarel Kuznetsov said that snowed-in roads made their work very difficult.
"It proved a great hindrance in terms of coordinating rescue efforts. The road was narrow and covered in snow. Rescue trucks had trouble maneuvering that impeded water delivery. Rescuers do not have the resources needed to maintain their own ploughs. The incident happened at a very unfortunate time and we had trouble contacting road maintenance service providers. One plough was simply pulled over and sent to the site," Kuznetsov said.
A local man's smaller tractor that assisted in the rescue effort almost got stuck itself.
The tragic fire accident saw a mix of unfortunate circumstances, said Andrea Eiche, chairman of the Lüganuse crisis committee.
"The head of the nursing home and I have talked about the roads being impassable in case anything should happen. And we have prioritized them on the local government level. But the road was snowed-in again an hour after the tractors had made their rounds. It was impossible to keep the road open all the time in that weather," Eiche said.
The fire at the boarding house cost three lives. The police have launched a criminal investigation to ascertain the cause of the fire.
Editor: Marcus Turovski