Wildfires: Finland’s hesitation in assisting Sweden criticized

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Firefighters use a helicopter to fight a forest fire in Korskrogen near Ljusdal, Central Sweden on July 25th. (Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)
The Finnish government said it has decided to offer assistance to neighbouring Sweden as the country battles a historic rash of forest fires. Fuelled by high temperatures and the worst drought in more than 70 years, Sweden has been battling forest fires blazing through large swathes of the country.

The government has requested international assistance to combat the wildfires as the scale of the outbreaks spread. A number of EU countries have since come forward to offer support through the EU’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre.

According to the Interior Ministry’s Rami Ruuska, chief inspector responsible for rescue operations, wildfires in Lapland and parts of Southwest Finland are now under control, allowing Finland to finally respond to any requests for help from Sweden.

“On the other hand, the [weather] forecast here in Finland is looking bad once more. We cannot spare any personnel from our domestic readiness teams to go to Sweden. But we can send rescue gear, in other words fire trucks, container trucks, motorised extinguishers and all-terrain vehicles,” Ruuska said.

Meanwhile a volunteer rescue team comprising 35 firefighters is set to go to Sweden and will be completely self-sufficient, meaning that they will have to make their own arrangements for accommodation. Other volunteers from Northern Savo, Oulu-Koillismaa and Lapland emergency service departments will join them.

Waiting for Sweden’s call for help

Ruuska said that Sweden has already been informed of Finland’s willingness to help.

“We have not yet received confirmation from Sweden that they can go. But once we get the go-ahead it will take 24 hours before we’re on the move. They are probably needed as substitutes. The request could come at the weekend or even today,” he noted.

Sweden had previously requested assistance from Finland in the form of aerial firefighting equipment.

Finland’s Interior Ministry had been criticised for not responding to requests from Sweden to lend helicopters from the Border Guard or Defence Forces.

Sweden has already received a large quantity of equipment and manpower from neighbouring Denmark and Norway, as well as from Poland, Lithuania, Germany, France and Italy.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: This year’s exceptional heat is becoming the new normal, scientists warn, CBC News

Finland: Rain helps tame forest fires in northern Finland, Yle News

Norway: European Arctic swelters under tropical temperatures, breaks heat records, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Forest fires are raging across the Barents region, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden to call for NATO’s help with fighting wildfires, Radio Sweden

United States: Alaska’s firefighters are ready for wildfire season, Alaska Public Media

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