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Mazsalaca forest fire no longer spreading towards Estonian nature reserve

Forest fire in Mazsalaca, 3 August 2018.
Forest fire in Mazsalaca, 3 August 2018. Source: ERR

Firefighters were able to stop a wildfire in the Mazsalaca area some 2.5 km south of the Latvian border from spreading further towards the Sookuninga nature reserve on the Estonian side. The fire has so far consumed 230 hectares of land. Estonia has sent firefighters and equipment to help.

According to the State Fire and Rescue Service of Latvia, it will take at least until Sunday to get the fire completely under control. Firefighters have been working to put it out for several days, but due to the currently strong winds and the lasting high temperatures and lack of rain, the fire has been spreading quickly.

After a request for assistance on 1 August, Estonia sent equipment and firefighters from several of its rescue centres to help. At the point Latvia requested help, the fire had spread over 40 hectares. How fast it is moving is evident in the area it has consumed since. On Friday evening, the number had gone up to 230 hectares.

On Friday representatives of the Rescue Board's West Rescue Centre went to assess whether the fire might still reach the Sookuninga nature reserve in Estonia, but concluded that it has not advanced much towards Estonia and that it is still about 2.5 km away from the Estonian border.

According to Rescue Board's Heiki Soodla, in charge of the West Rescue Centre, Estonian staff continue to help in Latvia as long as necessary to stop the fire from spreading across the border.

Beyond the fire in the Mazsalaca area, Latvian rescue services are working to get another much larger one under control: some 1,200 hectares are burning in Talsi in the west of the country.

Current weather conditions with a by now dangerous lack of precipitation have increased the danger of forest fires to an extreme level, which is why lighting fires outdoors is currently strictly forbidden in Estonia as well. The Rescue Board along with the Police and Border Guard Board are continuing their checks of beaches, recreation areas, campsites, and campfire sites this week.

At this point, conditions are dry enough for a cigarette butt thrown out of a car window to potentially start a fire, Rescue Board and police said earlier this week. People moving about in Estonia's forests and bogs are advised to leave matches and lighters as well as other flammable materials at home. Even littering is currently a great risk factor, as bottles thrown away in the forest may act as magnifying glasses and create enough heat to start a fire as well.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

Source: ERR, BNS

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