Forest and landscape fires
Behavioural guidelines for forest and landscape fires.
Necessary tools for an emergency situation:
- Recommended emergency storage
A person who has discovered a fire is required to:
- immediately notify the Emergency Response Centre (emergency number 112) of where the fire has broken out and what is burning, provide their surname and the telephone number used for giving the notification, and answer the questions of the rescue leader;
- warn people at risk;
- if possible, start extinguishing the fire or stopping the spread of the fire.
When the rescue team has arrived at the scene, the person who discovered the fire informs the rescue work coordinator:
- of the origin and extent of the fire;
- potential danger to humans or domestic animals;
- other hazards that may arise from the fire (buildings, etc.).
In the household:
- Turn on the radio (preferably with batteries) and set it up on the Vikerraadio channel to receive operational information on the spread of forest fires.
- Remove flammable items (garden furniture, garden tents, firewood, etc.) or cover them properly (if possible, soak the covered areas).
- Close the windows and doors and ventilation equipment (reduce the draught in the house).
- Close all gas appliances (preferably from the main valve).
- Observe if the smoke has entered the rooms (if necessary, seal the windows and doors with wet rags).
- Use buckets, tubs, or pools to hide valuables (that can come into contact with water) (in order to avoid contact with water, use watertight sealing bags – sink them with weights).
- ATTENTION! In the event of extraordinarily high fire risk, prepare for evacuation. Do not forget your domestic animals and pets.
In the area of disaster:
If you can find the basic fire extinguishing equipment, try to start with extinguishing. This will definitely help with stopping the fire from spreading.
However, if the fire detected is a treetop fire or if the surface fire has exploded to a hopeless extent, you can still contribute to the quicker extinguishing thereof by observing the fire after informing the rescue service:
- find out where the fire is moving fastest (the front that is generally downwind from the fire);
- try to estimate the area of the fire;
- if there are people in the vicinity of the fire, inform them of the danger;
- find suitable access routes for rescue equipment;
- go to meet the rescuers;
- give the rescue team a quick overview of the information you know.
Safety upon extinguishing:
- keep away from the fire when wearing clothing made of nylon or other flammable materials;
- always have a retreat route in mind in case the fire spreads suddenly;
- do not leave your property (for example, a car) downwind from the fire;
- in case of a ground fire, move like you are in a swamp – when taking the next step, make sure that you will not sink through the ground;
- when encountering a treetop fire, keep as far away as possible from it.
Use of basic fire extinguishing equipment
If you have detected a fire, then the wind direction must be determined before any action can be taken. Do not stay downwind from the fire.
In the case of different types of forest fires, the extinguishing methods used for them differ as well.
In case of a surface fire, the simplest and most accessible primary tool is the tree branches. Break or cut a branch of about your own length and as dense as possible (conifer being the most suitable). Extinguish the fire by stifling it, moving along the line of the fire and making sweeping movements along the line of fire, towards the centre of the fire area. Do not flail or ‘batter’ the fire – this way, you will add oxygen to the fire and complicate the extinguishing works while tiring yourself out.
Out of the tools that can be found at home (for example, when burning old grass), an iron rake or a shovel can be used. If you have the possibility to use water, you can choose the watering can from a range of other possible household containers, which can be used more efficiently and economically with water.
In the event of a ground fire, plenty of water is required for extinguishing. In order for the extinguishing water to make it faster to the source of fire, it is necessary to dig the source of the fire open.
In the event of a treetop fire, do not attempt to withstand the fire with basic fire extinguishing equipment – instead run to a safe distance as fast as possible.
If you are trapped in a fire
If you cannot run away from the fire, try to hide in a pond, puddle, or another body of water or cool your head and upper body with wet clothes;
If there is no water body around:
- look for a shadowy cave in the landscape or in the woods;
- hide behind rocks (cliffs, stone piles, etc.);
- lay down and cover your body with wet clothes or soil.
If there is not enough fresh air (you are surrounded by carbon monoxide and smoke), then lie down and protect your lungs from the scorching heat. If possible, put a wet cloth in front of your mouth to cool and clean inhalable air.
After the fire
Do not forget to help your neighbours and other people who may need special care and assistance – people with disabilities, elderly people, and other people who may have trouble in this situation.
Provide first aid to the injured (burns, carbon monoxide poisoning, etc.).
Be careful when walking on a burned terrain or in a forest. Hot spots in the soil may ignite again.
First, check the attic and roof surfaces of the buildings. If you find sparks or glowing pieces, extinguish them immediately. Later, search all rooms and flammable locations to make sure that there is no fire hazard.
Inform affected parties about things that have been destroyed or spoiled. Report any damage to your insurance company and your local government as soon as possible. It will be more difficult to prove the extent of the actual damage later. Owners of houses subject to heritage conservation must also inform the National Heritage Board of the damage.
- Campfires can be made in the forest only at the designated places or with the permission of the landowner.
- Before making a fire, examine the legislation of the local government – in a densely populated area, making a fire may be prohibited, or it may have been determined what can be burned in the fire.
- Make the fire on a non-combustible base prepared for this purpose or on non-flammable soil that is cleaned of dried vegetation so that it does not pose a risk to buildings, woodpiles, forests or, for example, peatlands.
- Keep the surroundings of the campfire or barbecue clean of flammable material to the extent of half a metre so that the open flame, high temperatures, or sparks would not ignite it. Limit the site of the campfire with stones or a mound of soil.
A campfire (over 1 m) can be made at least 15 metres away from buildings (houses, sheds, etc.) and combustible material storage areas (woodpiles, a stack of boards, etc.) and 20 metres from the forest.
- When making a campfire, observe the direction of the wind so that the sparks would not fall onto the building, the forest, dried vegetation, or any other highly flammable material. If such a threat exists, make a campfire only if the speed of wind is less than 5.4 metres per second.
- Soak the dry campfire site and its surroundings with water before making the fire.
- Never leave the open fire unattended. Let it burn out fully, extinguish it with water, or smother it with sand. When making a campfire, keep a 6 kg fire extinguisher at hand; it can be replaced with a water bucket (at least 10 litres of water). After burning, the site of the fire should be carefully extinguished to prevent re-ignition.
• Making a public fire must be coordinated with the local rescue centre of the Estonian Rescue Board.