Split bild. Fire chief Patrik Åhnberg and helicopter dropping water.
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Patrik Åhnberg is the new head of operations for Gävleborg. Credit: TT/Sveriges Radio
Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist
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Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist Credit: Pernilla Wahlman/TT
Two helicopters carrying water over forest fire
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Helicopters from Sweden and water bombing planes from Italy and France are already at work. Credit: Robert Henriksson/TT

Latest: The fires won't be out until the snow comes

4:21 min

The large wildfires currently burning will not be put out until the snow comes in October or November, says the head of the operation in Gävleborg.

Worst fire ever

Patrik Åhnberg was in charge of fighting the historic fire in Västmanland, but now just one of the many areas affected, in Ljusdal, now has a bigger fire than that record fire back in 2014.

And the dry warm weather seems set to continue through into August. It is the warmest year for east Sweden for at least 260 years, since records began in 1756. This week it is likely to reach 35 degrees in Mälardalen and south east Norrland.

The scorching week will make conditions even tougher for those fighting the worst fires in modern times, and the extreme weather means there is a great risk of more fires breaking out in the tinder dry grass and woodland.

Help coordinated by EU

As fire fighters and volunteers from all over Sweden stream to work to fight the fires, Sweden's membership in the European Union is also assisting. Four water-bombing planes have come from Italy and France, and on Sunday night it was confirmed that planes from Portugal are also on the way.

A convoy of 44 fire trucks and 139 fire fighters from Poland, that has been driving up through the country, met with cheers along the way, and reached Sveg in Jämtland on Sunday night.

The Polish fire team will head towards the worst fires, in Ljusdal, where other EU help has also been concentrated.

'Extreme risk'

It is the Civil Contingencies Agency that is coordinating all the efforts to deal with the crisis. Head of operations Britta Ramberg says the risk of fires will reach an extreme level during the week.

She says all their efforts are now focused on stopping the fires from spreading, and they are coordinating closely within the EU and with Sweden's Nordic neighbours.

The total area now ablaze is 250 square kilometers, which is bigger than the cities of Stockholm and Uppsala put together.

There are fewer fires in total, as many have merged. The latest report from emergency operator SOS Alarm says there are 27 fires currently burning.

The hardest hit regions are in the northern centre of Sweden, the counties of Dalarna, Gävleborg and Jämtland. Fires have been burning there for a week. Cooler weather over the weekend has offered some respite, but currently all efforts are simply focused on stopping the fires from spreading, and waiting for the weather to change. It will take several days of heavy rain to put out the fires.

Some areas have been evacuated. You can always find all the latest warnings updated at the top of our website radiosweden.se

For many of the small municipalities this is their worst ever crisis.

The weather in Jämtland has been favourable for the firefighting efforts, with lower temperatures and more humidity. There are five fires there, and those in Ragunda, Bräcke, Berg and Härjedalen have now been isolated and stopped from spreading.

In Gävleborg just to the south are the worst fires, in Ljusdal municipality, where some villages have been evacuated, and the firefighters are mostly trying to create fire-breaks, in order to prevent the fires from spreading.

In Dalarna to the west the worst fire is in the Trängslet military firing range, which means there are fewer homes affected. But there is the constant risk of ammunition being detonated by the fire. And on Sunday night the fire there blossomed up unexpectedly and a group of firefighters were surrounded and had to be rescued by military helicopter, flying blind through the smoke.

During the week temperatures are expected to reach 35 degrees Celsius in some areas, and there is also the risk of thunderstorms, which could start more fires.

Military involvement

The Swedish armed forces have been helping fight the fires, both regular soldiers and Home Guard have been involved. The Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist visited one of the fire-hit areas and praised their work, but also underlined that the military's role, as defined by the parliament, is to defend Sweden against an armed attack. There are 500 armed forces personnel currently aiding work on the fires.

There is a ban on campfires and barbecues across most of Sweden.

 

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