Violent fire destroys Umeå student housing

A huge fire destroyed student housing in Umeå in northern Sweden on Christmas Eve. Fire services had a busy night as a wave of arson attacks were reported across the country.

The head of the fire services in Umeå, Lars Tapani, reported that the fire broke out in the attic of the building and spread to the apartments below. The building is described as three-story, with several stairwells and organised in a u-shape.

“It is also burning violently on the roof and you can smell the smoke over half of Umeå,” he said to news agency TT early on Christmas Day.

Tapani was speaking from a primary school in the vicinity that had been taken over to provide temporary accommodation to people evacuated from some 90 apartments in the student housing area of Ålidhem.

Many others that had been affected by the fire during the night had been able to sort out alternative accommodation, Tapani said.

The fire still raged at 8am on Christmas morning in the house which is made of concrete and has a brick facade. 20 firefighters from Umeå, Sävar and Holmsund were involved in fighting the fire.

Kenneth Jonsson of the fire services reasoned that the house would not be inhabitable for the foreseeable future.

Jonsson told TT that embers from a fire in one of the apartments, extinguished on Christmas Eve, could have spread via the ventilation system into the attic of the building.

No one is reported to have been physically injured in the fire.

“But many were at home and are suffering from shock,” Jonsson said.

Several fires broke out across Sweden on Christmas Eve and fire services had a busy night.

On Järntorget in Eskilstuna, west of Stockholm, a fire began in a video store at around 2am. Police suspect that the fire, which was quickly put out, was a case of arson.

At a school in Bandhagen in southern Stockholm a further fire broke out in a classroom in the early hours. A guard at the school was able to extinguish the fire before it caused any considerable damage.

Shortly before 5am a fire broke out in a restaurant in Helsingborg in southern Sweden. Police suspect that the fire was deliberate.

There are similar suspicions over a fire in a two-storey building in Alvesta in central Sweden which destroyed the building on Christmas morning. The building was empty at the time but has previously housed a pizzeria.


Sweden’s Gävle Christmas goat ready to return for festive season

Sweden's straw yule goat Gävlebocken, whose biggest claim to fame is its tendency to get burned down every year, is all set for its annual return on Sunday.

Sweden's Gävle Christmas goat ready to return for festive season
The ill-fated 2016 Gävlebocken. Photo: Pernilla Wahlman/TT

Every year, the Christmas goat (Gävlebocken) in the Slottstorget square in Gävle, central Sweden, attracts a media storm with locals dreaming up new ways to protect the arson-prone 13-metre-high creation.

Despite their efforts, including in some years spraying the goat in anti-flammable liquid, the goat usually goes up in flames long before Swedes have opened their Christmas presents.

Last year, the goat surprisingly made it to Boxing Day intact, to the delight of organisers, who were reported to have put a “secret” plan into effect to protect it.

In 2016 it was less fortunate, going down in flames mere hours after its inauguration.

READ ALSO: 'Memorial' to be held for Sweden's giant yule goat

“Many people are invested” in the straw goat in Gävle, Maria Wallberg of the town’s municipality told TT.

The central Swedish town is naturally proud of its luckless Christmas decoration, despite the fact it has burned town 29 times during its 50-year history.

Thousands of people are expect to attend the unveiling of the goat on Sunday, with the ceremony to be presented by Swedish comedian Clara Henry.

“It means an incredible amount that the city has such a strong symbol which is known all over the world,” Wallberg said.

Security around the giant goat is expected to be high, both during its inauguration day and throughout December. Security guards and cameras will both be deployed to keep an eye on it behind its fencing, while a taxi rank has been moved to the square to increase the presence of people in the area.

“For security reasons, we can’t go into too much detail,” Wallberg said of any further precautions.

Historical precedent is against Gävlebocken. In its first year, 1966, it burned down on New Year’s Eve and it has only made it through the entire month on 15 occasions. It has been burned, stolen and vandalised. In 1976, someone drove a stock car into it.

Orörd = undamaged; uppeldad = burned down; annan skada = otherwise damaged; oklart öde = fate unknown. Graphic: TT

“An attack early in the season would mean cancellations at hotels and restaurants. So it is incredibly important for Gävle, Gävle’s businesses and for everyone who wants to visit the goat that it is still standing at New Year,” Wallberg said.

READ ALSO: Five weirdest attacks on Gävle's arson-prone Christmas goat