Thunder strikes. Photo: PH Sphere
27 Jul 2018

Critical 24 hours for the fire services in Sweden: "We´re terrified of what tomorrow may bring... Don´t even light a cigarette outside!


The fire at the Trängslet in Älvdalen municipality has been going on for over two weeks and is still out of control. During the weekend there is a risk of thunder storms and heavy winds in the area - something that concerns the rescue service a lot.

Meanwhile, there are many wildfires elsewhere throughout the country that are still out if control, and resources are already stretched to their limits. More wildfires in new areas could be catastrophic, and the fire services are calling on citizens and tourist to respect the nation wide fire ban.

Any open flame is prohibited by the fire bans in the country and in the  county of Dalarna, Dala Mittens Rescue Service chooses to curb the ban even for smokers, writes Dalarnas Tidningar.

"When you light a cigarette it is an open flame, so in practice it is also forbidden," says Mårten Ribbing, fire engineer at Dala Mitt, to the newspaper.

The worst and most difficult wildfire is still in the municipality of Älvdalen, where the wildfires have been affecting a large shooting range with live ammunition stored on the premises. The risk of exploding ammunition has made the extinguishing efforts extra difficult.

With the recent devastating and deadly wildfires in Greece taking priority over European resources, Sweden has lost several important water bombing aircraft. The weather forecast is predicting rain - but rain also comes thunder storms. And this is very worrisome for the fire service:

"We are anxiously waiting for tomorrow," says Anders Rosén, Press Communications Officer at Mora Fire Department.

After a relatively calm night, the rescue service is preparing for what you may call a "D-Day" in Älvdalen.

"We´ve had stable conditions night to Friday with a few smaller fires and under control," says Anders Rosén to Swedish daily paper  Aftonbladet.

"At the moment, it's calm, but we're fearing for tomorrow and the horrible situation which may come".

The fear is that the "extinguished" fire that occurred on July 12, probably started by a lightning strike, may flare up again and spread with the help of new thunder storms and heavy winds in the area.

The record heat wave in Sweden continues, and although the forecast for the weekend is likely to bring rain, it may cause undesirable thunder - and the risk of new wildfires.

"If it gets very hot and with heavy winds, there is a risk that the fire will spread north. There will be a very hilly terrain with few roads and only forests - if the fire spreads there it will be very difficult, "says Anders Rosén.

"Today we prepare and move resources where we think it might  be critical tomorrow.

Helicopters could be grounded

During the weekend, there are also nine helicopters participating in the extinguishing work, but if the forecast of thunder storms comes through, there is a risk that the helicopters can not fly on Saturday.

"Then we would  lose an important resource," says Anders Rosén.

At the moment, Älvdalen does not have the assistance of any of the foreign firefighters who have arrived in Sweden to assist in extinguishing work, but according to Anders Rosén, MSB, their wildfire may be re-prioritized over the weekend.

Earlier this week, JAS-plan bombed the fire at the shooting range with explosives from fighter jets - an emergency measure that had a good effect.

"But it was more just a test which is now being evaluated, and not a method we will use again this weekend," says Anders Rosén.

"Exceptional situation"

At a press conference on Friday morning about the state of the wild fire situation throughout the nation, MSB, the Civil Protection and Emergency Agency, noted that they were still in an "exceptional situation".

"We have four focus areas  - Jämtland, Gävleborg, Dalarna, and we have prepared prioritizing also or southern and central Sweden, based on Växjö," says Anneli Bergholm Söder, Firefighting Operations Manager at MSB.

According to MSB, the heat wave causes new fires to be fought in southern and central Sweden during the weekend, and therefore the level of preparedness is very high.

"There is the greatest risk in southern Sweden where extreme heat is expected," said Peter Arnevall, rescue chief and wildfire expert at MSB during the press conference.

During the night to Friday, the fire in Gävleborg, in Kårböle in Ljusdal municipality, has been the hardest to handle.

Sweden is asking for help from NATO

MSB has asked for  further assistance in the form of water bomber airplanes from the NATO Project Partnership for Peace, but has not yet received an answer.

According to Anneli Bergholm Söder, Ukraine has offered tanker aircraft, but they are not as effective as real water bomber planes, partly because need landing and refueling after each run.

- At the moment we have the help of two French and two Portuguese water bombers.

Another plane is also on its way to Sweden from Turkey.

Ground based firefighting crews from several European countries have previously been in Sweden to assist their Swedish colleagues, and Finland has now joined the list of countries that sent firefighters to Sweden.

"We have an incrediblelevel of support and udnerstanding from the EU and our neighbors for the situation we are in," says Anneli Bergholm Söder.


Photo Credit: PHSpere Public Domain photo