Arson possible cause of toxic blaze

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Prima M, the company which owns the territory in the Latvian sea-side resort-rown Jurmala where a major fire occurred June 18 to 19, suspects arson to be the cause, LETA reports.

The company's board said most probably the fire had been started by arsonists because accidental ignition was impossible in the given situation. The board said it has suspicions about the identity of arsonists but would not make them public as long as there was no evidence confirming those suspicions.

Prima M also contradicted statements made by the State Environment Service, which had described the facility as an unlicensed waste dump. The territory was used to store recyclable materials such as sorted polymers, and, under the European law permission for sorting and storage of recyclable materials is not required, the company claimed.

The company said it had not made any security arrangements for the facility because "there was nothing worth stealing". But the owners of a neighboring facility had installed video surveillance and those cameras might have recorded something.

Prima M said they had not insured their facility and refused to give any estimate of the fire damage.

The Latvian State Police confirmed they had started a criminal proceeding over the fire in Jurmala to investigate a crime against property.

As previously reported, a very dangerous fire started in the Sloka area in Jurmala June 18 as plastic waste caught fire. Flames spread over the area of 1.2 hectares and also consumed a hangar, the State Fire and Rescue Service said.

The fire was finally put out the next day after a major firefighting operation which had lasted for more than 12 hours. About 50 firefighters participated in the operation along with a fire train of the state-owned Latvijas Dzelzcels railway company, two water tenders sent by the State Forest Service and a helicopter of the National Armed Forces.

Commuter train traffic in the area was temporarily suspended, and the State Fire and Rescue Service advised people to stay away from the scene because the smoke from the burning plastic waste could be harmful for health.

Inga Kolegova, the head of the State Environment Service, said on the public Latvian Television that the fire had started at an illegal waste dump operated by Prima M. The company had been piling up its waste at the given location since October last year but had not obtained any permission to do so and had been given until June 24 to rectify the situation. A few days before that deadline, the blaze occurred.

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