Latvia asks for international help to contain forest fires

Latvia asks for international help to contain forest fires
By bne IntelliNews July 24, 2018

Latvia will ask for international assistance to help contain fires that have damaged hundreds of hectares of forests and peatland, the government decided on July 23.

Latvia, neighbouring Lithuania, as well as nearly the entirety of northern Europe, have been suffering from a rare heatwave for weeks. Temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius - recorded as far as 300 kilometres inside the Arctic Circle - have created conditions for the ignition and easy spreading of forest fires. The hot weather is linked to the effects of climate change, experts say. 

The Latvian government said help is needed because the country’s aircraft that have been fighting the fires need maintenance.

“Our air force helicopters need a break. The maintenance will take some time and we will have to ask neighbouring countries for help," said Agriculture Minister Janis Duklavs, according to Xinhua.

So far, fires have destroyed nearly 270 hectares of forest, 312 hectares of scrubland and over 430 hectares of peatland, Leta reported.

The heatwave has also affected farming in the Baltic region. Lithuania declared a nationwide state of emergency on July 4, as drought is expected to hit this year’s crops severely.

Other central and northern European countries are also facing problems in the agricultural sector because of drought. Last week, Poland asked the European Commission to launch financial help for affected farmers. 

The Commission has so far allowed the suspension of so-called “greening obligations” – paid measures implemented by farmers to make farming more environmentally-friendly – in Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Portugal.

It is forecast that dry and hot conditions will continue in northern parts of Europe and they are expected to further affect the region’s forests and agricultural land.