An extreme heatwave has produced intense and unexpected forest fires in Arctic Sweden
DOZENS of forest fires are raging across Sweden, prompting Stockholm to ask for emergency help to fight the blazes.
The fires erupted during an extreme heatwave currently sweeping the Nordic region.
“Due to the heat and the unusually dry weather, the risk for fires is approaching record-setting levels in big parts of Sweden,” the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) said.
“Several severe fires have earlier started in forests and nature and the risk for new ones is still very high. The situation is extremely serious and can affect people’s lives and health.”
Even northern Swedish Lapland, inside the Arctic Circle, has been affected. Five wildfires were burning in the forests outside the town of Jokkmokk, a popular tourist destination in the winter.
“This is not looking good, it’s burning uncontrollably and spreading quickly,” rescue officer Torbjorn Wannqvist told TT.
MSB said two Italian firefighting aircraft had been sent to assist in badly hit areas of central Sweden, while Norway had dispatched six helicopters.
Swedish authorities said 44 fires were burning across the country, urging locals living close to the blazes in the central counties of Gavleborg, Jamtland and Dalarna to evacuate.
MSB fire chief Britta Ramberg told TT news agency the fire in Jamtland was “the largest and spreading the fastest”.
The fire there had already engulfed 2500 hectares and was spreading by 10 square metres a minute, authorities said.
No casualties have been reported so far.
MSB said it had asked the EU Civil Protection Mechanism for more firefighting planes in addition to those sent from Italy due to lack of capacity and manpower.
“The drought has led to a large amount of simultaneous fires in the forests and land,” emergency services company SOS Alarm said in a statement, adding that the number of fires would “likely” increase.
Meteorologists have in recent days warned of extremely hot temperatures in Sweden, saying it’s “unusual” for a heatwave to last this long.
Record temperatures above 33C were reported in Uppsala, a city north of Stockholm, and more than 30 degrees throughout the rest of the country.
Neighbouring Norway was hit by wildfires in 100 locations in the south last week, some of which were triggered by lightning.ik