Belarus asked to help put out forest fire in Latvia

Latvia's government is asking for firefighting assistance not just from fellow European Union member states but also from Belarus, Kristaps Eklons, deputy head of the State Firefighting and Rescue Service (VUGD), acknowledged in an interview with LTV's "Morning Panorama" show July 24.

According to Eklons, local resources - both engineering and human resources - are starting to quench the flames, which have been burning for nearly a week. However, more helicopters are required to control the fire from the air and to access the center of the fire where peat and forest are burning.

Because of wildfires elsewhere, particularly in Sweden and Greece, currently only one free helicopter is available in the EU, and because of limited resources from the EU, Latvia has decided to ask Belarus for support outside the EU.

The neighboring state is ready to respond and the helicopter is "in a state of preparedness". At present, the Foreign Ministry and other responsible state institutions are working to help this neighboring country provide assistance to Latvia.

"It can only be aviation technology [that is required]," said Eklons.

A Lithuanian helicopter has already been helping the firefighting efforts for several days, but will soon need to return home.

"For almost a week, firefighters have tackled a fire in the Valdgale parish of Talsi region, where peat and forest are burning. Work continues on site and firefighters and rescue workers, along with others, are working to prevent the spread of flames," said a statement from the VUGD July 24.

"In assessing the current situation at the fire, the Minister of the Interior Rihards Kozlovskis and the head of the VUGD Oskars Āboliņš became convinced that despite the continuation of combustion in certain parts of the territory, the fire did not spread beyond the established security perimeter," the VUGD said.

On Monday, July 23, the Cabinet of Ministers approved a request for international aid to help put out the fire, which was reported on the evening of Tuesday, July 17.

Following a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers on July 24, Kozlovskis confirmed that a helicopter from Belarus was hopefully going to join the battle against the flames on Wednesday.

He also said arson had not been ruled out as a possibility for the cause of the fire and appealed to the public for any information that might prove useful in determining the reasons.  

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