Forest fires remain a real risk in Latvia, officials warn

Even though the worst of the heatwave now seems to have passed, firefighters and foresters are reminding members of the public that conditions in many places remain tinder-dry and they should continue to take special care not to start forest fires. 

So far this year, 236 forest fires have been extinguished by the State Fire and Rescue Service (VUGD), and 200 hectares of forest land have been lost to the flames.

"In the vast majority of cases, forest fires break out due to careless and irresponsible actions of people. As the hot and dry weather continues, the risk of fire in the forest increases, so the State Forestry Service calls on everyone to observe fire safety in the forest - do not throw burning or smoldering matches and cigarette butts on the ground, do not drive motor vehicles through the forests and swamps off-road, and do not perform other actions that may cause a fire," the State Forest Service (VMD) said July 4.

According to the VMD, in 2021, 88% of forest fires started as a direct result of human actions. In the rest of the cases, the fires were the result of rare events such as a lightning strike or causes unknown.

"People often do not even realize that they are setting the forest on fire. A cigarette butt dropped on the ground while picking berries or mushrooms, or if thrown out the window of a moving car, can cause a serious fire. Similarly, people often ignore the ban [on open flames] and light bonfires in unauthorized places, or leave them to smoke without carefully extinguishing them with water, sand or fine gravel," said Zigmunds Jaunkiķis, deputy head of the Forest and Environmental Protection Department of the State Forest Service.

When you notice a forest fire, you should immediately call the unified emergency number 112 and specify the location of the incident as accurately as possible. Receiving timely and accurate information about a forest fire significantly reduces the extent of burned areas.

In the past 24 hours, firefighters have rushed to calls where garbage, dry grass, a compressor, three passenger cars, a shed, three garages and, in two cases, burnt food left unattended were on fire.

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