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Fire service issues plea to keep fire hydrants clear of snow

A man clearing snow from around a fire hydrant.
A man clearing snow from around a fire hydrant. Source: ERR

The Rescue Board (Päästeamet) – the fire service in Estonia - has issued an appeal to both municipal street cleaners and private building owners to not bury fire hydrants in snow during, at a time when heavy snowfall has covered much of the country.

The board's personnel use an app to locate hydrants and other water sources when called out to fires, but having to dig a connection out from heavy snow during a fire is obviously not a good situation, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Tuesday night.

Tõnu Osa, head of the fire service at Nõva, a village west of Tallinn, told AK that the problem was worsened: "Since usually a lot of fires happen at night, in the dark, where you can't see much. Then you have to first search where this hydrant might be located, and then you can start looking actually looking for it."

While municipalities clean major streets and thoroughfares, smaller roads are often the responsibility of owners of adjacent buildings. The latter should keep sidewalks clear of snow and either knock down icicles sprouting on their buildings, or tape off the sidewalk immediately below.

Clearing snow from roofs is a similar required task, and is often done during cold snaps where the job is supposed to be easier than when the thaw comes.

Rescue Board: Winter so far has not been busy

Nonetheless, the winter and the recent cold, snowy spell has not led to an upsurge in work for the board, AK reported, while volunteer stations are making use of down-time to carry out maintenance work on fire trucks and equipment.

One recent incident in Tallinn saw a fire burn a hole through the ceiling of a restaurant. Ventilation screens should have been degreased more frequently in that case, AK reported.

The Rescue Board is staffed both by full-time professionals and volunteers, with the latter, as in other countries, particularly significant in more rural areas.

So far as rural areas go in Harju County, the village of Hüüru is the only place with its own workshop – generally useful because volunteer equipment is often dated and cast-off from the full-time Rescue Board, or even from abroad.

Mati Leivategija, head of Hüüru's volunteer rescue team, said that the average age of their vehicles is about 35 years, though plenty of new fire-fighting technology has also been received from the state.

In Finland, no vehicles over 20 years of age are continued in service, Leivategija added, and are often sold off at auction to the public.

This would happen in Estonia too, but with considerably older vehicles, Leivategija said, noting that the pride of the Hüüru fire-fighting fleet is a 1989 Soviet-era, Russian-built Kamaz which was obtained from the Rescue Board and refitted as a staff shelter, replete with shower and other amenities.

The original AK clip (in Estonian) is here.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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