Government calls for mandatory smoke detectors after tragic blaze

  • 2006-01-18
  • From wire reports
RIGA - Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis has issued an order to prepare in 10 days amendments to the law that would make smoke detectors mandatory in residential apartments.
The decision comes in the aftermath of a tragic fire in Riga where four family members died after jumping out of their eighth-floor apartment window. Fierce flames prevented the family from finding a safer way out of the apartment.

Interior Ministry State Secretary Aivars Straume told the press that there had been talks about making smoke detectors mandatory since the late 1990s, but apparently it would takes a tragedy to get something done.

Straume said the performance of rescuers during the recent fire was still under investigation. The main thing now, he added, is to focus the public's attention to the fact that over 200 people die in fires annually, often due to poverty and careless smoking.

Kalvitis said that third-party liability insurance for fire fighters had to be discussed so they won't be afraid of damaging property while on a mission to save lives.

He also said that the National Fire and Rescue Service should immediately do something about the proper identification of buildings, as many buildings did not have street numbers on them.

A number of recent fires have been caused by outdated electric household appliances, said Straume, who himself used to be in charge of the fire and rescue service.

A task force chaired by the prime minister is looking into the reasons behind the fatal blaze in Riga, which occurred in the Mezaparks region on Jan. 6.

The Prosecutor General's Office has opened a criminal process following applications by eyewitnesses, who have accused firefighters of incompetence. Rescuers argue that there were a number of objective reasons preventing them from saving the family 's from the apartment's double steel door to private cars blocking a place for their fire engine.