Severe Forest Fires Raging Across Drought-Stricken Sweden

Severe Forest Fires Raging Across Drought-Stricken Sweden

So far, no casualties have been reported, but houses have been destroyed, and people are being evacuated from the most heavily affected areas in central Sweden.

There are dozens of separate fires, but three areas in sparsely populated and heavily forested parts of central Sweden have particularly large fires.

On Wednesday, the largest single fire in Jämtland county covered an area of about 6,000 acres, according to government estimates. Rescue operations leader Leif Ekström told local newspaper Östersundsposten that about 10,000 acres had already burned down.

The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency MSB characterizes the situation as “very serious.”

“There are other serious ongoing fires … but we prioritize the Jämtland fire since it’s the largest and fastest spreading one,” Britta Ramberg of the MSB told the TT news agency.
No casualties have been reported, but several houses, primarily vacation homes, have been destroyed in Gävleborg county further to the southeast, local newspaper Hela Hälsingland reported.

On Tuesday, July 17 55 people were evacuated from their homes in northwest Gävleborg county, but that particular area was no longer immediately threatened on Wednesday, SVT Gävleborg reported. The situation is changing constantly, however.

Local resident Marco Hassholdt told SVT Gävleborg that his fishing camp was very nearly destroyed.

“I thought it was all over when the fire was just 50 meters from our house,” he said.

In Dalarna county, a large area was evacuated Monday because the fire was threatening a military shooting range that houses explosives.

Hundreds of professional and volunteer firefighters, as well as military servicemen, are struggling around the clock to contain the fires. The MSB reported that two Italian firefighting aircraft with a crew of 13, called in through emergency EU protocols, have been deployed.

There is debate on whether Sweden should have its own firefighting aircraft, instead of having to ask for support from the EU. One of the opposition parties in parliament, the Center party, tweeted on Wednesday that they want Sweden to buy a national firefighting aircraft. There are also discussions about the organization and use of resources, particularly helicopters.

The fires broke out after a long period of severe drought and high temperatures across Scandinavia beginning in May, which saw all-time heat records broken in Sweden. The early drought has already destroyed an estimated 40 percent of the Swedish grain harvest, and farmers are being forced to slaughter their animals for lack of feed.

While the drought has affected Norway and Denmark as well, Sweden is the only Nordic country currently facing intense forest fires. There are fires in Finland as well, but no worse than usual, thanks to rain in late June and early July, Swedish Radio reported.

Currently, Sweden is in the grip of another heatwave, with temperatures reaching 90 degrees, and according to forecasts it will stay hot and dry with little or no rain in the affected areas over the next two days.

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