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Firefighting during independence times

World War I was a heavy examination for all of people. Many were forced to flee and around 400 manufacturing companies were evacuated, properties were destroyed. As a result firefighting organizations lost a great deal of their members, technique and equipment.

On 18 November 1918 in Riga in the hall of nowadays Latvian National Theatre the independence was declared.

In after years Latvia experienced a high industrial and commercial development, the number of citizens augmented, new industrial, administrative and cultural buildings were established, the borders of cities were expanded, but thereby came also a great number of fires. At the same time firefighting was also developing in Riga, Liepaja and Daugavpils, the municipalities hired firefighting teams and they were continuing to develop all over the territory of Latvia. Gradually usage of horses for moving the equipment was switched to mechanical transport, the necessity arose to organize the work of firefighters by the same principles and to establish a coherent regulation. The voluntary firefighting associations were not only extinguishing fires, but they were popular public organizations; they were actively organizing celebrations and collecting donations for charity purposes.

After a short time Latvian firefighters achieved the level of many Western European countries by the means of technical capabilities and professional skills. Before World War II had started there were about 200 voluntary firefighters associations and many city teams.

1918-1925

After the WWI had ended the idea of making a firefighter unifying organization appeared because it was decided that the questions of organization, financial and economic character had to be coordinated on state level. In May 1921 with 76 firefighting organizations attending from all over Latvia and from city brigades the first Latvian firefighter congress was established, which led to the decision of founding the Latvian Firefighter Union.

Latvian Firefighter Union has a remarkable meaning in the firefighting development because it gave contribution in issuing many firefighting reglamentary documents, instructions for teaching commanders, descriptions of a new uniform, the setting a membership fee, the rewarding system and monthly magazine “The Firefighter”. As a result many voluntary firefighters and municipality brigades started to work by uniform principles.

In 1922 the parliament adopted a law about laborer insurance in case of accidents, wherewith the firefighters were insured against possible accidents at work.

In 1924 the Latvian Firefighter Union organized the first Latvian fire prevention exhibition, which showed the accomplishments in the field of fire prevention, new tendencies in firefighting equipment, construction and fire safe buildings.

1925-1935

During the time period from 1929 till 1932 the European countries were struck by the world economic crisis. In Latvia this crisis was deepened and tremendous damage was made by many big fires – in Leitners bicycle factory, Hasan sawmill, timber and firewood warehouses, warehouse of the factory of matches “Vulkāns”. On 11 April 1930 during the fire in “Provodnjiks” factory building flax warehouse two of Riga city firefighters lost their lives. The series of fires were concluded by fires in Ludza and Alūksne.

In September 1926 in Riga the Baltic States Firefighters Union was found in which there was unanimous consensus that independent states need to find common ways of improving fire safety in the Baltic’s.

In 1929 Latvia joined International Association of Fire and Rescue Service (CTIF). In 1930 the law of fire prevention was approved, which determined that the general management of fire prevention matters is delegated to the Construction administration under the Ministry of Interior, within it also the fire prevention council and fire prevention inspector, and that “for fire prevention, firefighting and assistance during fires there are public, municipal, private and voluntary firefighting organizations”. This law determined the legal status of firefighters and the opportunities to receive material support from the state. In 1932 the amendments of law gave way to receive support for voluntary firefighters in case of injury or death during a fire.

1935-1940

The development in the sphere of civil protection in Latvia started from 1934 with the law on passive air protection and 1936 approved passive air protection plan.

In 1939 the Ministry of Interior established Passive air protection administration with three divisions: operative, technical and fire prevention. Fire prevention division coordinated the prevention matters, introduction of gas shelters, and the work of state, municipality and private firefighter organizations and followed the execution of fire prevention law and rules.

At the turn of the year 1940 Riga city firefighters had 60 automobiles and they had reached the level of Western Europe. The development was stopped by the World War II and the occupation of the Republic of Latvia.