Swedish firefighters struggle to keep control of wildfires until weekend rain

A forest fire in Korskrogen near Ljusdal, Sweden on July 25th. (Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)
The biggest fires here are contained, and help from Finland is on its way. But the next few days will be decisive as Sweden battles its largest wildfires in modern times.

Anneli Bergholm Söder, head of operations at the Civil Contingencies Agency says Sweden is still in an exceptional situation, with very high risk of fires, and society is also overstretched by the very warm weather. It is over 30 degrees in many places.

There are 19 fires still burning in Sweden. The one in Gävleborg’s Ljusdal is by itself the biggest ever recorded. In Dalarna the fire in Trängslet, in Älvdalen could become much worse during the next few days, as strong winds on Saturday may sweep the flames across the fire-breaks.

“We see Saturday as a decisive 24 hours, and if we can hold through that period we will be very positive,” says fire chief Johan Szymanski to Swedish Radio P4 Dalarna. Some rain will fall on Saturday, but not enough to make a difference. It is only on Sunday and next week that the weather might make a difference. Johan Szymanski estimates about 100 millimeters is needed to get the fire under control.

International help making a difference

Assistance via the EU has been helping hold the fires to a standstill. There are water-bombing planes from France and Portugal working here, while Italian planes are leaving to help fight the fires in Greece that have killed at least 83 people.

Sweden’s government is now asking for help via the NATO Partnership for Peace network, and a plane from Turkey will head to Sweden as soon as the weather allows.

Related stories from around the North:

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

Finland: Wildfires: Finland’s hesitation in assisting Sweden criticized, 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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