'The firefighters told me I had to leave right away'

Oliver Gee
Oliver Gee - [email protected]
'The firefighters told me I had to leave right away'

An Englishman living less than two kilometres from the edge of central Sweden's forest fire tells The Local how he's already escaped the flames twice, and what he grabbed when his home was evacuated.


"It all started last Thursday when I saw smoke coming from the east over my house," Andrew Wootten told The Local. 
Wootten, who says that he lives a "very back to basic lifestyle in the woods", owns a home just 1.5 kilometres from the fire's edge in Bergtorpet (see map below). He was told to leave his home on Sunday by firefighters.
"They said that the fire was coming closer and that they didn't know if they'd be able to stop it. They said 'You need to leave now'," he recalled. 
The dotted line marks the edge of the flames, Wootten's home is marked in red north of Seglingsberg
Scrambling to think what to do next, Wootten said that he wasn't afraid, but in shock. 
"You never think something like this will happen to you. I didn't really know what to do. I packed three photos of my three kids, some binders full of paperwork...
"It's tough. You just think: 'Crumbs, there's so much to take but it's not really important'," he explained.
He also grabbed some of his ducklings and chickens. 
"I just felt that life was the most important thing," he explained. 
Wootten himself. Photo: Private
The fire, however, missed his house and headed to Gammelby, a nearby village that was also evacuated. But the worst wasn't over for Wootten. Due to strong winds, the fire began moving back towards his home again. 
"But it missed me twice. I feel so lucky - I'm not religious, but God has a way of doing his work, doesn't he?"
Now, Wootten is back at home, though admitted that he probably shouldn't be. 
The most interesting part for Wootten, however, has been the sense of community. 
"Swedes can be a little... how shall I put it... unsocial at the best of times, but it's been wonderful to see how people are coming together," he told The Local.
"It's just a shame that it takes a disaster like this to bring everyone together."


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