Firefighters: Almost impossible to access rural remote houses

Last year, 68 people died in fires in Latvia, the lowest number in 20 years. This statistic includes not only people who died in cities, but also in villages and rural homesteads. Firefighters say that rural fires are not always reached in time because homesteads are far apart, and road conditions also hamper the access, Latvian Radio reported March 5. 

Finally, signs of spring have appeared in Latgale. Slippery, ice-covered roads have been replaced by mud. For residents and the services, it is a testing time. 

In one of the villages in Ludza municipality, where there are just two homesteads left, when asked about fire safety in the inherited house, the owner says that everything is fine - the chimney is cleaned, the electricity is monitored, but there is no money to buy smoke detectors: "They cost now... I don't know how much, but when I asked, it was over 20 euros. We need two."

After the administrative-territorial reform, fire stations were maintained in all three towns of the municipality - Ludza, Zilupe, and Kārsava. This makes things easier, if only because the furthest point to which firefighters may have to travel is 15-20 kilometers away.

However, as the commander of the Ludza unit, Jānis Klodāns, points out, the biggest problems arise with fires that occur in remote farmsteads, far from even rural roads. Although all three depots in the Ludza district have received a new modern firefighting and rescue vehicle this year, the problems with roads have not gone away.

"If we look at difficult driving conditions such as ice, we barely manage to stay within the norm, which is 23 minutes. If a fire is spotted late, as is usually the case in the countryside, then unfortunately there is nothing left to save. Only the neighboring buildings," says Klodāns.

There have already been three house fires in Ludza this year. One house was partially saved but will require a lot of money to rebuild it.

"In two cases, firefighters were called by neighbors who saw only a glimpse of the fire from a distance. In this case, we are also powerless to help. In one case, the owner managed to escape the fire on his own, but in the second case, we already have our first fire fatality this year," says Klodāns.

Fires in the countryside are mainly caused by incorrectly installed or used heating systems, uncleaned chimneys or careless handling of fire - most often smoking indoors under the influence of alcohol, as well as problems with electrical wiring, says the commander of the Ludza unit.

But fires break out not only in dilapidated houses but also in places where, from the outside, everything seems fine. That's why the most important and cheapest way to spot a fire in time is to install a smoke detector and insure your property.

"Let's be honest: wealth, social and economic conditions do their work and people prioritize where they spend their money, and fire safety is not at the top of their list. The first thing to do to take care of fire safety is to buy a smoke detector, replace the wiring, and survey the wiring every 10 years," emphasized Klodāns.

Last year, 68 people died in fires in Latvia, a third of them in the regions. This year, 14 people have already lost their lives.

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