Swedish authorities are preparing to evacuate thousands of people as emergency services struggle to contain the biggest forest fire to hit the country since it started recording such events.
The fire, near Sala about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of the capital Stockholm, has been raging since Thursday. Villages including Gammelby and Vaestervaala have been evacuated and preparations are in place for similar actions in Norberg, a town of about 4,500 inhabitants, should the fire spread, according to the website of the Vaestmanland County Administrative Board. The fires have so far claimed one human life, according to Dagens Nyheter newspaper.
Sweden has had a dry and hot summer, increasing the risk of forest fires. Temperatures in the region reached 35.1 degrees Celsius [95.18°F] yesterday, the highest August temperature recorded in Sweden since 1992. Authorities, who have so far evacuated some 1,000 people, say they will need to also move people from the town of Norberg if the blaze continues to spread.
“We fear that that the fire will spread so that it will reach close to Norberg toward the evening,” Fredrik Eriksson, a spokesman for the emergency services, said by phone today. “The fire has never been under control, at any stage.”
Swedish Defense Minister Karin Enstroem and Rural Affairs Minister Eskil Erlandsson will visit the affected area today, the government said in a statement.
The fire has already spread to cover an area of 150 square kilometers [58 square miles], and 110 emergency workers are now fighting to try to contain it. Sweden has asked for international assistance, requesting five planes able to drop water on the fire. Two of those are expected to arrive from Italy today, Eriksson said.
The area consists of pine forests, bogs and marshlands, according to forest owner Sveaskog. That company alone has lost as much as 1,500 hectares [3705 acres] of forest in the blaze, according to its website. Bergvik Skog, whose biggest shareholder is Helsinki-based Stora Enso Oyj, is also affected by the fire, according to its website. It’s too early to say how much of its forests have burned, it said.