As wildfires raging through Sweden exhaust local emergency services, Europe is sending hundreds of people to help contain multiple blazes across the country.
France, Germany and Denmark have dispatched more than 100 firefighters while Poland is sending 139 people to help battle some of the worst forest fires Sweden has ever seen, amid soaring temperatures and a lack of rainfall.
There are currently about 50 fires burning through Sweden’s forests. The country has also received assistance from Italy, France and Portugal in the form of water-bombing aircraft, while Norway, Germany and Lithuania have sent helicopters.
Sweden has had an exceptionally hot summer, with temperatures in large swathes of the country hovering around 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). Precipitation has also been unusually low, with parts of southern Sweden experiencing their driest summer on record. The Kvikkjokk-Arrenjarka weather station in Sweden’s far north, on the same latitude as southern Greenland and northern Alaska, recently broke its record with a reading of 32.5 degrees.
While the fires have destroyed vast tracts of forestland and forced forestry companies to halt harvesting for fear of sparking fires, the heatwave is also causing huge problems for the farming industry. Harvests have been hurt by the lack of rain, and many farmers are now running low on animal feed. Water levels in Sweden’s hydro-power dams, which produce half the country’s electricity, have also fallen drastically, pushing up energy prices.
The fires have raised questions about the impact of climate change and whether the extreme heat is the new normal. That’s raised concerns about Sweden’s ability to tackle such crises. The fires, and the government’s reliance on outside help, may even become a topic in the Sept. 9 general election.
Forty-four fire engines from Poland were met with applause when they arrived, with Swedes waving Polish flags as the vehicles drove north before arriving in Sveg in Harjedalen county in central Sweden on Sunday evening, according to local media. “Dziekuje to all Polish firefighters” was the headline in the Expressen newspaper, thanking them in their own language.
Sweden’s Forest Agency estimates that some 600 million kronor ($68 million) worth of forest has burned or been damaged by the fires, as of July 19.
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