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"Sweden's worst forest fire in modern times"

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14:15 CEST+02:00
Forest fires which started at the end of last week are continuing to rage in northern Sweden. And it could be several weeks before the blazes are fully out, say fire officials.

"The fire in Boden is the biggest forest fire in modern times," says Lars Rang, fire engineer at the Swedish Fire Protection Association, to TT.

During the whole of the 1990s, several large fires in Sweden consumed a total of 6,000 hectares of forest. In the blaze in Boden alone over 1,500 hectares have been burned so far.

Some 80 people, both firement and home guard, are workig to put out the fires, which are thought to have been caused by a spark from a forestry machine.

On Wednesday 20 more firemen from the Sundsvall and Södra Roslagen emergency services headed north to relieve their colleagues. The Swedish Rescue Services Agency has contributed 37 kilometres of fire hoses as well as pumps and steel pipes. Seven helicopters are already in the area dropping water bombs on the flames.

"We reckon we'll have the fire under control within a few days but it will take many weeks before it's put out," said the head of rescue operations in Luleå, Patrik Bylin, to TT.

The emergency services have chopped down trees to form fire breaks, limiting the spread of the blaze in all directions.

Around 40 residents were evacuated on Sunday and several properties in the area are still threatened.

The ground is very dry since, in contrast to the south of Sweden, it has not rained for more than 20 days. But even if the rainclouds drift north it will take several weeks of regular rain to have any effect.

Meanwhile, a number of other smaller forest areas are ablaze in Norrbotten. One is in Stormyran, outside Kalix, and another is in Muddus national park, near Jokkmokk.

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