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Sweden and Norway 'concerned' by unusual pre-season forest fires

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Sweden and Norway 'concerned' by unusual pre-season forest fires
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TERJE PEDERSEN / NTB SCANPIX / AFP
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Various pre-season forest fires already burning in Sweden and Norway have authorities worried that it might be another “summer of ashes” in Scandinavia this year.

The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, MSB, told AFP news agency they’ve already spotted ten blazes of “concern”.

The origins of the fires are most likely due to human activities such as barbecues or forest machinery, according to authorities.

But the lack of rain and higher than usual temperatures are not helping.

Last year, forest fires ravaged more than 25,000 hectares of land in Sweden after an exceptionally dry spring and the hottest month of July on record since two and a half centuries.

But both the MSB and the Swedish Interior Minister Mikael Damberg said Sweden is "better prepared" than last year to face the forest fires.

On their website, the government's agency said they were working with private helicopter contractors that owned water-tanker jets to tackle the fires from the air and are ready to give better support to firefighters on the ground.

Damberg said on a Facebook post that MSB had received an additional 65 million euros to tackle the forest fires this year.

However, the Swedish firefighter federation said they still had too small a workforce for the holiday season.

Norway has also seen a few forest fires ahead of the season due to the unusually dry weather that burnt a few hectares of land.

The country's minister for public safety, Ingvil Smines Tybring-Gjedde, said on local TV they had "learned their lessons" after last year's fires.

But the earlier trend of blazes is not only present in Scandinavia. Across Europe, the number of fires is higher this year than the average from the last 10 years.

According to Copernicus, the EU Commission satellite service, there have been a total of 1,207 forest fires as of April 24, compared to 112 at this date last year.

Additionally, the agency has recorded more than 180,000 hectares of burnt area to date this year compared to 24,000 hectares last year.