Fire brigade repeats grass fire warning

The State Fire and Rescue Service (VUGD) is urging people not to torch grassland and warning them they risk a hefty fine of they do. 

The service said that on April 10 alone, 139 hectares of Latvian land had gone up in smoke with farmers setting fires to clear grassland for the growing season.

"Burning off old grass is a risk to human health, life and property, as well as causing significant environmental damage. Grass burning can not be controlled, and it is prohibited and punishable," the VUGD reminded the public.

The first grass-fire of the year was recorded on February 3 in Smiltene. 

Fires like these, known as 'kūla' fires are common in Latvia as people ignore official warnings and burn off last year's grass in the fields, risking life and limb in the process.

Sadales tikls, the company responsible for electricity transmission lines joined in with the warning, pointing out that the danger becomes even worse when fires are set in fields crossed by power lines.

And the fires are not just a danger to those nearby. With fire crewss called out to dozens of kūla fires each day at this time of year, resources are stretched and could result in rescuers not being available for other tasks.

According to VUGD data in the last 24 hours, 180 calls were received in total. 133 of those were for fires, of which 87 were kūla fires or nearly half of all emergency calls received.

The biggest fire of the day was a 25 hectare blaze in Jaunsatu parish, Tukums district.

Four buildings, two summer houses and two barns were also consigned to the flames by out of control grass fires.

So far this year April 8 was the busiest day for firefighters who had to tackle more than 100 grass fires nationwide.

A total 2730 grass fires were recorded last year; the 2015 figure was 2786 while 4187 were recorded in 2014.

Grass fires raged on over 3232 hectares of land last year.

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