Forest fires are currently devastating Sweden and the risk of further forest fires is “extremely high”, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) has confirmed.
After requesting emergency help from the EU on Wednesday, Swedish authorities received firefighting planes and helicopters from Italy and Norway and were expecting two special aircraft from France to arrive.
Multiple villages across Sweden were evacuated overnight, with others at risk of being engulfed by flames.
Residents in the counties of Gavleborg, Jamtland and Dalarna were asked to evacuate. Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) said that the fire in Jamtland was "the largest and spreading the fastest".
The fires also affected Lapland, Sweden's northernmost region, which lies within the Arctic Circle.
Five wildfires are burning in the forests outside the town of Jokkmokk, a popular tourist destination in the winter.
According to SOS Alarm, there are currently more than 60 fires across the country of different sizes. Rescue forces, the National Guard and helicopters are battling the fires.
“The drought has led to a large amount of simultaneous fires in the forests and land,” state emergency services operator SOS Alarm said in a statement.
Sweden and its Nordic neighbours have experienced an unprecedented heatwave in recent days, and with temperatures forecast to remain above 30 degrees Centigrade, the risk of more fires remains high.
As a result, the MSB activated the EU’s so-called civil protection mechanism due to lack of capacity and manpower and sent a firefighting request to the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC).
The commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management Christos Stylianides, said, “The European Union stands in full solidarity with Sweden. Our thoughts are with all the people affected and also with first responders and the firefighters working to tackle the fires. I thank Italy for its immediate offer of two planes. This is solidarity in a Europe that protects.”
Jakob Wernerman, operational director of MSB’s management, said, we have chosen to request this support from the EU because we see that national preparedness needs to be strengthened right now.
“It is very dry in the fields and forecasts in the future indicate that forest fire risk will be at an extreme level throughout the country, even in the near future.”
Why is this happening?
Sustained record heat and a summer drought are keeping the blazes going.
In recent days, meteorologists in Sweden have warned of extremely hot temperatures gripping the country, noting that it was unusual for a heat wave to last this long.
The combination of unusually warm temperatures early in the summer and an ongoing drought have put the country at "extreme risk" for forest fires.
Sweden's national weather agency SMHI on Sunday issued a class-two alert for "extremely high temperatures" (the most serious temperature warning) in counties in the north and central parts of the country: Örebro, Västmanland, Södermanland, Uppsala, and Stockholm.
Neighboring Norway was also been hit by wildfires in 100 localities last week, in the south of the country. Some of the fires were triggered by lightning.