The State Forest Management Centre will close forests in Konju to motor vehicles due to fire hazard 27.05

This May, seven peatland fires occurred in Toila Parish, Konju Municipality, Ahtme forest area to which the Rescue Board has spent both work resources as well as the taxpayers’ money. Since almost all the events are caused by motor vehicles, RMK has chosen to prohibit vehicular access.

The temporary prohibition signs will be installed on the forest areas on Friday, 27 May and they will later be replaced with stationary signs.

“People have driven on peatlands, which will become very flammable due to the hot and dry weather, with ATV and motorcycles,” Ida-Viru County’s Forest Manager Alar Süda explains. “We will clearly indicate with prohibition signs that it is not permitted to drive on the peatlands because there is a huge fire risk.”

Head Eastern Rescue Centre Safety Supervision Bureau Marti Siim highlights that the largest fires in May took place on 3 May, when two hectares of peatlands were burnt and on 14 May when they needed to put out the fire on half a hectare of land. “A rescue event usually takes 12 working hours and 400 euros goes to supplies out of the taxpayers’ pocket, not to mention the additional labour costs,” Siim explains. “And all that because someone wanted to have fun with the motor vehicle on the peatland.”

Similarly to grassfires, the rescue workers point out that each similar event can prolong the time for the workers to get to a residential fire and in the worst case scenario can impact the speed of saving lives.

“Landscape fires can cause extensive environmental damage,”the Head of the Surveillance Bureau of Ida-Viru County of the Environmental Board Käthlyn Lizdenis notes. “Kurtna Landscape Protection Area is also located there. The fire doesn’t ask for the borders of the protected area and if the careless driver causes a fire on the peatland, it can also easily spread to the protected area.”

The cause for peatland fires is airborne dust, which falls onto the overheated machine’s details. Moreover, the sparks flying from a machines’ silencers have caused fires.

A few days of rainfall does not entirely alleviate the situation because the water does not reach the deep peat soil, where the fire beds can smoulder for a few days before expanding to landscape fires.

Ten fires occurred in the same region or nearby regions in 2021.

Photos: Rescue Board