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Midsummer weekend brings more fire safety worries despite worsening weather

A larger Jaanipäev gathering, at Pühajarv in southern Estonia
A larger Jaanipäev gathering, at Pühajarv in southern Estonia Source: Arvo Meeks/Valgamaalane/Scanpix

This weekend sees the annual Estonian Midsummer celebration of jaanipäev, a national holiday.

Weather report this Midsummer

Jaanipäev (23 June) itself falls on a Sunday this year which means the main celebrations of the night before (jaaniöö), going into the small hours of the day itself, will be on a Saturday night.

23 June is also Victory Day (võidupüha) and will be marked by a parade at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds.

The weather in most of Estonia looks set to be characteristically uninspiring for the holiday weekend after a long period of hot and sunny weather through May and much of June.

Maximum temperatures on jaaniöö are forecast to be 13C and could fall to as low as 7C.

Temperatures on jaanipäev itself are forecast at a high of 19C and minimum of 14C.

Sporadic rain bursts are forecast for Saturday evening going into Sunday, particularly in western parts of the country. Daytime should be drier, but cloudy, throughought much of Sunday with small spots of rain in places.

All weather information is based on forecasts at the time of writing, you can keep up to date on the weather (in Estonian) with ERR here. In general the weather has been quite changeable in recent days, with a bout of strong winds on Tuesday causing over 50 reported incidents including fallen trees and branches, fallen power lines and damage to roofs.

In short, some wet weather gear or at least access to shelter are advised, and warm clothes are a must for those who plan to celebrate midsummer through the night outdoors wherever they are in Estonia, even with a bonfire in the proximity, which brings us to...

Fire Safety over the holiday weekend

Midsummer bonfires are a common feature at Midsummer; some people even jump over them as part of the festivities. But basic fire safety applies at Midsummer as much as any other time of the year.

Fire safety is particularly paramount this summer since the unusually dry weather in May has led to several forest fires, resulting in the whole country being declared a fire danger zone by the authorities. This means the building of fires on public, forested areas, even in designated zones, is forbidden.

The most notable forest fire to date raged at Vikipalu, in Harju County, and covered around 200 Hectares, though many smaller fires have continued to break out. The arrival of cooler and wetter weather has not alleviated things yet either – a fire broke out yesterday, Wednesday, in the Tori rural municipality of Pärnu county which covered an area of 40 hectares, in mostly peat bog terrain.

However revellers can still build their own bonfires in private gardens.

The Rescue Board of Estonia (Päästeamet) carries recommendations on fire safety which includes the following, so read on and avoid becoming one of the inevitable statistics:

  • Keep a full 10 litre bucket of water and/or a 6kg fire extinguisher at hand.
  • Bonfires with a diameter of more than a metre must be built a minimum of 15 metres from any building and 20 or more metres from any trees. Smaller bonfires should be a minimum of 8 metres from any building.
  • Hay, reeds and similarly dry organic material should on no account be burnt.
  • For those planning to have a barbecue, similar common sense applies, and should be kept a minimum of 5 metres from any building when in use.

Additionally, it is quite common practice to burn larger items of refuse such as discarded furniture on midsummer bonfires. Again, common sense would apply but it is also worth bearing in mind that, whilst even burning wood can release carcinogens, burning some man-made materials can release up to ten times as many, which can carry for several kilometres in addition to being a hazard to those in close proximity to a fire. More information on these dangers (in Estonian) is available here.

Water Safety over the holiday weekend

A perennial occurrence at Midsummer and indeed summer in general are water-borne accidents.

Many Midsummer parties take place next to lakes and other water sources not to mention the Baltic sea. This can also present hazards particularly when alcohol is involved. The latter has caused over a 100 water-related deaths during the summer months in Estonia in recent years. Keeping an eye on a person at any level of intoxication is naturally critical when near water; obviously prevent anyone under the influence from entering the water for any reason.

At the same time and even when sober, precautions should be taken when on the water. Always wear a life jacket when boating, and it is best to swim only from publicly-guarded beaches.

Päästeamet's water safety page contains a wealth of information (in English this time) on the avoidance of water-related accidents and what to do in the event of emergency.

The same EU-wide emergency services number (112) applies in Estonia.

Working hours

As regards business hours over the holiday weekend, many companies are likely to knock off around lunchtime, so traffic coming out of Tallinn, Tartu and other major towns is likely to be heavy from then onwards.

Major supermarkets, petrol stations etc. are likely to stay open, sometimes with reduced hours.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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