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Brush fire warnings could douse Easter bonfire plans in many parts of Finland

Fire officials in parts of Ostrobothnia have ruled out traditional Easter bonfires due to the tinder box conditions.

Kokko syttyi Laihian Ylipään nuorisoseuralla.
An Easter bonfire in Laihia, western Finland in 2017. Image: Tuomo Rintamaa / Yle

Bonfire bans issued in several municipalities could put a damper on hopes for traditional Easter bonfires this weekend. Finnish law currently prohibits lighting open fires if the Finnish Meteorological Institute FMI has issued a forest or brush fire warning.

FMI has so far issued advisories for large parts of southern and western Finland, covering the entire coastal area of Kymenlaakso in the southeast all the way to Ostrobothnia on the west coast. The fire warnings also cover the inland regions of Kanta-Häme and Päijat-Häme.

The bonfire ban does not affect Helsinki’s Seurasaari – as long as winds remain calm. However fire officials in coastal Ostrobothnia have banned Easter bonfires, although they may be lit in central southern Ostrobothnia.

Easter bonfires are an old Ostrobothnian tradition that many locals gather to enjoy during the holiday.

Further north in Finland, however the situation is entirely different as there is still snow on the ground.

"It's looking rather unusual. There has been no rain for some time," FMI duty meteorologist Ari Mustala said on Saturday.

The ground is also beginning to dry up inland in the Tampere region, so FMI is calling on members of the public to check for brush fire warnings before starting Easter bonfires.

Burning branches also discouraged

As snow cover recedes during the spring in Finland, it exposes grass that is dry and highly flammable. Brush fire warnings mean that it is forbidden to start open fires in such areas.

This year’s advisories are stricter in the past as warnings did not previously ban open fires. Rescue officials decided on a more rigorous approach given the large number of brush fires that have ignited.

"Brush fires ignite easily, especially if dried grass has been cleared. The flip side is that the wind can easily blow where it is not meant to. Then fire officials have to be called to the scene," Mustala expanded.Easter bonfires will only be allowed in special cases that have been agreed with local fire officials.

Burning branches and other vegetation is also banned while the warnings are in force. Residents getting their summer cottages ready are therefore being asked to wait to clear up their yards and gardens. Grilling – another sure sign of spring and fine weather – should also be practiced with care and users should keep the grill covered as much as possible, officials have advised.

"It’s worth exercising care to ensure that sparks do not fly from the grill to the ground," Mustala pointed out.

Once outdoor chefs finish grilling, they should allow the grill to cool properly before ensuring that it is turned off. It is also not advisable to dispose of glowing charcoal in rocks because of the brush fire risk, Mustala commented.

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