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On New Year's Eve, first responders brace for fireworks emergency calls

People walking toward fireworks being set off alongside Reidi tee in Tallinn. January 1, 2022. Photo is illustrative.
People walking toward fireworks being set off alongside Reidi tee in Tallinn. January 1, 2022. Photo is illustrative. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

As the end of 2023 arrives in Estonia, the Emergency Response Center is urging people to be careful when setting off fireworks, as it's precisely fireworks of all kinds that concern rescuers the most on New Year's Eve. Pet owners are worried too, as the lights and noises can cause their pets to bolt as well.

The Emergency Response Center started gearing up for a busy workday Sunday ahead of time already.

"The biggest load is from midnight through 3 a.m., when the majority of calls are pyrotechnics-related," said emergency dispatcher Jaanika Jaagus.

"Setting off fireworks often involves either not reading the instructions ahead of time, people not knowing to maintain a safe distance, setting them off from balconies," Jaagus cited as examples, adding that spent firework packaging often isn't properly disposed of afterward either. "So rescuers really have quite a lot of work at that time."

In stores selling pyrotechnic devices, however, the last two days of the year are also their busiest. One such store, Tulepood, has been seeing 50-100 customers a day, with sales even exceeding last year's numbers.

"Whenever we get the chance, we talk to customers about how to use [the fireworks they're buying], when, where, not to use them near or in between houses or in residential areas," Tulepood representative Anton Babenko said. "They have to understand that if they're going to take a pet along, then that pet must be trained, and this has to be at max distance from residential buildings."

Cat shelter nonprofit Kassi Elu director Aljona Meier, however, encourages people to think twice before setting off any fireworks.

"It's expensive, and for another thing, we're hurting our pets, especially dogs that we take outside with us to enjoy the view," Meier underscored. "It's often also the case that there are tons of notices on January 1 afterward describing that a pet ran off after being frightened; that they escaped their leash and are lost now."

People's attitudes toward setting off fireworks vary.

"I like it," said Dmitri. "It's pretty; it immediately puts [me] in a holiday mood."

"I don't support fireworks, because I saw once how animals and birds had been frightened [by it] and I felt sorry for them," Tatjana said.

"I myself don't [set off fireworks], because I feel like it's a choice," explained Julia. "Everyone will decide for themselves, but we have to be a little friendly, and that's very important."

"It's pretty expensive," Dmitri admitted. "I saw it costs €60-100; that's really expensive. So I'll just watch. They promised a beautiful laser light show downtown; I might go check it out."

People are reminded to call 112 only in case of emergency – not to wish them a happy new year.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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