Fire risk means cigarette smoking, barbecues banned on Estonian public land

A forest fire in Estonia (photo taken in 2021).
A forest fire in Estonia (photo taken in 2021). Source: Rescue Board

The Rescue Board (Päästeamet) has issued a large-scale fire hazard warning to come into effect from tomorrow, Wednesday, as climbing temperatures bring more people out into the open.

Restrictions will be in place on public land including State Forest Management (RMK) territory – the restrictions will include a ban on cigarette smoking.

While the hot weather may have taken a while to arrive, spring and early summer have been particularly dry, making forest and other wilderness areas particularly susceptible to fires.

The risk will only heighten in the coming days, as the state weather service (Riigilmateenistus).

In the coming days, the weather service predicts a temperature reaching the border of 30 degrees, and the risk of fire will increase even more.

Tuuli Taavet, spokesperson for the Rescue Board's prevention center said: "Since the spring has been very dry, while the first heat wave of this summer is arriving this week, the natural environment has become extremely susceptible to fires. In order to avoid large-scale brush fires, therefore, a fire-risk period has been established, which places some restrictions on activities in the natural environment."

Of these, Taavet said: "It will now be forbidden to make bonfires, to grill and smoke in the open nature during fire-prone weather, because in extremely dry weather, just a single, small spark is enough to start a large-scale fire.

"Barbecues, campfires and smoking are also prohibited in the forest areas of RMK during fire-risk periods," Taavet added.

"You can still make a fire and grill in your own private garden, but safety must be ensured and the primary fire extinguishing equipment must be at hand. If possible, it is best to avoid even having a fire on your own private property."

In putting its fire-hazard alert in place, the Rescue Board evaluates the Environmental Board's (Keskonnaamet) data and weather maps on a daily basis.

The board says it tries to set as minimal restrictions as possible, and to lift them at the earliest available and reasonable opportunity.

The Rescue Board has responded to just over 600 forest fires so far this year alone, with 65 in June so far. Last weekend, Rescue Board personnel were called out to deal with wildfires in peat bogs and other non-forested areas, while just this last Sunday a main highway in Pärnu County was closed for several hours while firefighters fought a blaze.

The new restrictions come into force Wednesday, June 14.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Rescue Board

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