Firefighters brace for return of grass fire season

With dry weather returning after a few damp weeks, firefighters are preparing for a second period of unnecessarily heavy workloads as people ignore official warnings and burn off last year's grass in the fields, risking life and limb in the process.

So far this year, fire crews have already tackled 2,006 grass fires (kūlas), with 76 reported on Thursday alone and the prospect of much more to come.

Dry weather, strong winds and human negligence mean fires can easily spread out of control, destroying property, killing livestock and wildlife and in some cases taking an even deadlier toll on humans.

Thursday saw around 134 hectares go up in smoke, including 60 fires in a single conflagration in Kalkune district near Daugavpils.

The State Fire And Rescue Service (VUGD) is urging people to listen to common sense, saying: "Grass burning is prohibited, threatening not only people's property, health and life, but also causes significant damage to the environment and its biodiversity... VUGD invites residents to clean up their plots without burning, and be careful when handling fire!"

Rather than being burned in situ, grass should be cut and burned on a safe bonfire with proper precautions to stop it spreading - or preferably composted if possible.

So far this year 36 people have died in fires in Latvia.

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