High-risk fire hazard declared for four Estonian counties, starting Sunday

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Aftermath of a recent forest fire on Saaremaa. Source: Margus Muld/ERR

The Rescue Board (Päästeamet) has given a fire hazard warning for four counties in northeastern Estonia, starting Sunday. This not only bars, for instance, burning campfires in the affected areas, but even puts a ban on motor vehicles driving into such zones, for the first time ever, Baltic News Service reports.

Lääne- and Ida-Viru counties, along with Jõgeva and Järva counties, are the four in question, where Mikko Virkala, spokesperson for the board says the situation: "Is very critical, and as a measure to prevent accidents, we are also introducing a ban on staying in risk areas in Estonia for the first time".

For the first time in Estonia, a ban has been put in place on entering or remaining with a motor vehicle in at-risk areas, which include not only forest but also peatlands and other areas of dense vegetation, for as long as the fire hazard period remains.

"This year, many fires have been caused by sparks emitted by a motor vehicle, and therefore the usual ban on campfires and barbecues in the risk areas is not enough," Virkala said.

An exemption applies to owners of the land in question.

The current heatwave and weather forecast is also a factor, and the hazard status may extend to other counties in due course.

So far this year, 626 forest and landscape fires have occurred in Estonia, over 10 percent of these in the past two weeks. A fire broke out near the village of Liiküla, Saaremaa Friday, in a county not even on the high-risk list noted above.

The Rescue Board says it will be closely monitoring compliance with the regulations via patrols, and will monitor the nationwide fire hazard picture and weather forecasts, adding that the duration of the hazard warning is difficult to prognosticate at this point in time.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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