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Criminal case opened on Thursday fires in central Rīga

The State Police has opened a criminal investigation to find out whether the fires that broke out in Grīziņkalns, Rīga, on Thursday, May 9, were intentional and whether the two fires are connected. The fire in the building on Laboratorijas Street was not put out until 7 a.m. on Friday. The building is now fenced off and no residents are allowed inside, Latvian Television reported.

On Thursday evening, Grīziņkalns in Riga was engulfed in heavy black smoke. It could be felt not only by the inhabitants of the nearest buildings but also on the other side of the Daugava. A two-story residential building was on fire on Laboratorijas Street. Firefighters started their work at around 9 p.m. and finished only at 7 a.m. The house is fenced and no one is allowed inside.

Dozens of people - families with children and pets  - had to watch the firefighters fight the huge flames all night. Not only the residents of the affected house were evacuated, but also neighbors in nearby buildings.

One of the evacuated residents, Valters, said that within minutes he had taken his cat and important documents, and he and his wife ran out, hoping that their apartment would remain intact. Other residents also revealed their feelings to Latvian Television.

Rihards: "At first I thought they were catching a criminal who had broken into the yard, but in the end, it turned out to be a fire. When I opened the door of the flat, looking to the left, I saw big flames."

Olafs: "At first... When I saw the first picture, I thought it was a small fire, they would put it out quickly. But then I realized that it was not going to be good and I really hoped that it would not catch. It was a bit stressful."

Eyewitness pictures and video show that the fire spread quickly from the bottom of the house, covering everything, and several people were unable to get out of the house on their own. All residents of neighboring houses were also evacuated.

More than 35 firefighters worked on the scene.

Major Krišjānis Mincenbergs, Commander of the Riga Regional Department of the State Fire and Rescue Service, said that it was a high-hazard fire. 

Another fire had broken out nearby, so the State Police opened a criminal investigation to find out whether the fire was intentionally set and whether the two fires were connected.

Meanwhile, the Riga municipality has announced that it is offering all possible assistance to the residents evacuated from the building on Laboratorijas Street. 

"We are currently in contact with the evacuated residents and are offering them temporary accommodation, crisis benefits, and other social assistance," said Viesturs Zeps, Chairman of the Housing and Environment Committee of the Riga City Council. So far, two residents of the building have agreed to temporary accommodation.

The municipality said that the building is in critical condition after the fire, as the load-bearing walls were damaged. Further action to remedy the danger will be decided after an inspection of the building, which will take place in the near future.

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