Half of fire victims in Latvia are seniors

Take note – story published 1 year ago

Statistics compiled by the State Fire and Rescue Service (VUGD) for the nine months of this year show 49% of those killed in fires, were older than 60, and 42% of the injured were seniors, Latvian Radio reported on October 20.

In the Valmiera department of VUGD, the main reason for the calls was, as a general rule, the burning of soot in the flue. Deputy Commander Miks Rakeckis said currently burning chimneys are the top call.

"The flue must be cleaned before the heating season. I've had a situation in which the an older person gets sick of worry. The call was just a flue fire, but the senior was sick with fear and already needed medical help," said Rakeckis. 

Chimneys must be cleaned at least once a year. VUGD also mentions old habits as one of the main reasons for fires.

The service's senior inspector, Sandra Vējiņa, said: “Those fierce, ingrained habits that we have had for many, many years. Of which it's so hard to get rid of. Because I've done it all my life, even for decades. Classic – a cardboard box has been placed on the edge of the stove. There are crumpled newspapers inside, and firesticks. Another of the classics is that, for example, the oven door cannot be closed. They have fallen out, broken. They can only be closed by propping something up."

Rakeckis added: “As an example, I can say, the clothes are dried on flue vents. Old wiring is still being used in many homes, too.[..] Similarly, damaged devices and extenders with damaged insulation are used. Both cookers and flues are cracked. That also puts them at risk. That spark can, for example, jump out in the attic. And in the attic, it is also likely that the flues have been piled shut with burning items,” the firefighter said.

What's the way to have fewer victims in the fires? VUGD emphasized that the first is a smoke detector. It is currently mandatory in all homes but not always observed, especially among seniors in rural areas.

“For pensioners, I'd recommend asking a neighbor to come to help. Or for grandchildren to come to help them clean up all the things. To have the flue cleaned, to have the battery replaced for the smoke detector,” the firefighter said.


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