Two die in early morning house fire just outside Tartu
Two people died in a house fire in the village of Soinaste, just outside of Tartu, early Friday morning, the Rescue Board said. A third managed to escape the fire and was taken to the hospital for treatment.
Emergency services were notified at 7:15 a.m. on December 16 that a house was burning in the Kambja Municipality village of Soinaste, immediately south of Tartu. The caller reported seeing open flames coming from the windows of the house and could hear someone screaming, according to a press release.
By the time rescuers arrived at the scene, the first floor of the house was fully engulfed in flames, and one man had managed to escape the burning building through a window; he was taken by ambulance to the hospital for treatment.
Rescuers were notified that there may have been more people inside at the time and entered the building. The house was filled with significant amounts of burning trash and rags, making the search more difficult; in the course of firefighting operations, rescuers eventually found the charred remains of two victims' bodies in the house.
While the official cause of the fire will be determined in an investigation, the Rescue Board noted that this home and its outbuilding had been the scene of two previous fires already, in 2019 and 2021.
In 2019, a fire broke out under the stairs of the home, from which it spread to the hallway and one attic-level living room. At the time, a bystander helped four people get out of the building prior to the arrival of emergency services, one of whom was taken by police to sober up.
In 2021, a shed adjacent to the house burned down that had contained an old Moskvitch car and significant amounts of trash. Both fires were attributed to carelessness with open flames.
According to Arvi Uustalu, head of the Prevention Bureau of the Southern Rescue Center, rescuers had previously visited the home to provide fire safety counseling to its residents.
"Rescuers were met with a depressing sight," Uustalu said, noting that they found significant signs of fire safety negligence, including rooms filled with trash and rags as well as signs of extensive indoor smoking and alcohol consumption.
They nonetheless installed a smoke detector in the home, in hopes that it could help save lives. No evidence of a working smoke detector was found in the home following Friday morning's deadly fire, however.
"Tõrvandi volunteer rescuers and the municipality's social worker kept tabs on the home and its residents, and they were visited from time to time to check on the situation and try to prevent possible fire hazards," Tõrvandi Volunteer Rescue Brigade chief Toomas Arumägi said.
"Despite the offered help, the residents were unfortunately unable to manage significantly changing their lifestyles," he added.
43 people have died in fires in Estonia to date this year, including one in Tallinn on Friday, one in a house fire in the Põlva County village of Eoste last Thursday and three in an apartment fire in the Setomaa village of Mikitamäe last Wednesday.
A total of 39 people died in fires in 2021.
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Editor: Aili Vahtla