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Forest fires raging across Sweden

Christian Fernsby |
At least 10 wildfires have broken out in Sweden this week, as the country gets its first warm spell of the year.

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Forest fires are still raging in at least three locations across Sweden and more than 50 people have been evacuated as a result, reported Swedish News SVT. Extinguishing efforts including water bombing by helicopters have continued throughout Thursday.

All fires began as a result of human activity, said the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB).

Jakob Wernerman with the MSB told Sweden's TT news agency that "it can be forestry machinery or people barbecuing sausages. In any case, it's not lightning or anything like that".

The three biggest fires still burning are in the towns of Tjallmo, Ostergotland; Hastveda, Skane; and Gnosjo, Jonkoping.

The fire in Tjallmo began on Monday and worsened on Wednesday when high winds fanned the flames. Five helicopters were brought in to water bomb the area but by Thursday morning the blaze was still out of control and over 800 hectares were on fire. Emergency services are standing by to evacuate homes in the area.

A blaze which began in Hastveda on Tuesday is still being water bombed. SVT reported that Minister for Home Affairs Mikael Damberg visited the town on Thursday morning to observe fire-fighting efforts.

With the help of cooler weather in Skane, the fire in Hastveda has been slowed, but over 300 hectares have burned, farmsteads have been razed to the ground, and for now, roads remain closed. Over 50 people were evacuated from the area and by Thursday morning had not yet been allowed to return to their homes.

Helicopters are also water-bombing a fire near Gnosjo, which has burned over 150 hectares since the start of the week. Several homes in the area were evacuated on Wednesday night and fire-fighting efforts are expected to continue throughout Thursday.

Since last year's unprecedented wildfire season, Sweden has been preparing intensively to be better able to fight fires this summer. With over 57 percent of the country covered in forest, and much of it not quickly accessible by road, fighting flames from the air will be a crucial tactic.

SVT reports that the MSB has purchased a fleet of new water-bombing helicopters, which are due to take to the skies Thursday to help with the wildfires already raging across the landscape.

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