FIREFIGHTING IN RENEWED REPUBLIC OF LATVIA
In 1990 the independence of Latvia was renewed. Rules and regulations of the USSR were no more valid and new normative documents regulating fire service – fire safety, fire fighting had to be worked out.
Fire service gradually became fire and rescue service performing first aid, rescue works on water, of traffic accidents and chemical accidents as well as aid to inhabitants in everyday accidents. From 1997 coordination of civil protection was also included in the functions of fire and rescue service.
Gradually new vehicles and equipment were purchased. Cooperation with fire services of neighboring countries, Scandinavian countries and countries in Western Europe developed. Development of professional skills and technical provision was promoted also by various projects of European Union foundations.
In the course of time the name of the fire service has changed, functions and tasks widened, but mission of firefighter has remained the same – to help people in emergency situations. And therefore the profession has gained recognition and trust from the society.
In the early 1990s the reforming of firefighting system began. On 1 November 1990 (Order Nr. 294 of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Latvia, 31 October 1990) State Fire and Rescue Service Department under the Ministry of the Interior was founded.
In 1991 new firefighter uniforms and insignia were made and the following ranks of service were introduced: privates rank – private; junior commanding staff ranks – corporal, sergeant, first sergeant, junior officer; middle level commanders ranks – lieutenant, first lieutenant, captain; senior commanders ranks – major, lieutenant colonel, colonel; supreme commanders rank – general.
In 1992 the law “On fire safety” came into force determining three types of fire safety institutions in Latvia – State Fire and Rescue Service Department of the Ministry of Interior, fire safety services of offices, companies and organizations and voluntary firefighter’s formations.
On 8 October 1991 in the firefighters training center eleven month course for junior and middle level commanders and 40 day training for firefighters was opened to prepare new officers. In 1994 it was reorganized into the Fire Technical School.
In 1994 Latvian Federation of fire sports was renewed.
In November 1996 emergency telephone number 112 was introduced in Latvia.
According to the amendments of the law “On firefighting” in 1997 State Fire and Rescue Service Department was renamed State Fire and Rescue Service and now had the task of coordinating the field of civil protection.
On 17 May 2001 the new flag of State Fire and Rescue Service was consecrated, the ceremony took place in Riga Tornakalns Lutheran church; the logo of the Service was supplemented by a blue triangle – the international symbol of civil protection.
On 1 April 2002 Fire Technical School was reorganized into Fire Safety and Civil Protection College.
At this time skills of firefighters were tested in several serious fires and accidents. On November 1998 in Vecumnieki eleven train tanks with diesel flared up after a railway accident. On March 2000 in Livberze several train tanks with diesel went off the rails and caught fire after a collision with an automobile. In 2005 firefighters had a complex and challenging rescue emergency after a collision of two trains in Riga.
On 1 June 2009 the reorganization of State Fire and Rescue Service territorial units started and as a result 5 regional structural units were formed instead of 33 territorial brigades and fire stations and posts of the corresponding region are subordinated to them. On 1 February 2011 emergency number 112 communications centers were reorganized and formed 5 regional communications centers. On April 2013 they were renamed “call centers” and subordinated to Operative Management Board.
As a result of economical crisis on 1 January 2009 Staicele and Rundale posts were closed, but on 2012 Stende post was closed and a new post in Roja was opened.
In 2008 and 2009 Fire and Rescue Service purchased 71 specialized vehicles. In 2013 Cabinet of Ministers adopted a gradual purchasing of 93 specialized vehicles up to 2018.
In December 2014 the first modern fire station complex after the renewal of independent Latvia was opened in Cesis. In the summer of 2015 the fire station building in Valka will be finished. The building, reconstruction and renovation of several fire stations are planned till 2017.
2013 was one of the most difficult and tragic years in the history of firefighting. In March firefighters in cooperation with Marine Rescue Coordination Centre and State Board Guard coordinated the rescue of 232 people who were trapped on a drifting slab of ice in the Gulf of Riga. In April rescuing was needed in flooded Ogre, Plavinas and Daugavpils. In June two days and nights firefighters were battling the fire of Riga Castle. The largest rescue in the history of Latvia was on November in Riga when the roof of supermarket collapsed. Rescue works lasted for 94 hours involving 557 firefighters from the all over the country. In this disaster 54 people lost their lives, three of them were firefighters.
Today State Fire and Rescue Service is a developed, professional and many-sided institution that responds to fires and other emergencies and prevents fires from causing harm or damage to people and property. Every day the dispatchers receive approximately 4500 calls and firefighters from 93 fire stations are ready to help. In 2014 firefighters extinguished 12175 fires and led 6182 rescues saving 595 people. Fire safety inspectors annually check more than 8000 buildings.