Swedish fire chief reveals delay in reaching fatal blaze

Swedish fire chief reveals delay in reaching fatal blaze
File photo of a fire station. Photo: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT
Emergency services were delayed to a fatal apartment blaze in Uppsala because of stone-throwing and car burning incidents in the area, a fire chief has told Swedish media.

Fire and rescue services were called out to the fire in an apartment in the Valsätra area of the Swedish university town at 2am on Saturday. But recent disturbances in the neighbourhood – including around ten cars set on fire and a molotov cocktail thrown at a bus – meant that they chose to wait for police escort.

As a result, they arrived at the scene 20 minutes after they were first alerted to the blaze. A journey which, according to the head of Uppsala fire and rescue, would normally have taken no more than 5-7 minutes.

It then took crews six minutes to locate the apartment and knock down the door. The man was not discovered inside until 2.35am, and was taken to Uppsala University Hospital where he was confirmed dead.

“You can't say if [an earlier arrival] would have saved the man's life. But time is of the essence in these cases and it's a significant delay,” Uppsala fire chief Anders Ahlström told the Aftonbladet tabloid.

He said the initial alert to the emergency control room had been registered as “smell of smoke in the building” rather than a fully developed fire.

“We would have acted differently in that case. You should also be aware that there had been unrest in the area for four hours with fires and stone-throwing,” said Ahlström.

The Local has attempted to reach the fire services and the police for a comment.

In the end, the fire crews were never caught up in any unrest on the night, but police and emergency services have previously voiced concern about car burnings and stone-throwing in Swedish surburbs.

Earlier this year an Australian TV station released a clip showing their crew being attacked while reporting on a story about the refugee crisis in Rinkeby.

Uppsala, meanwhile, has also registered a number of incidents in the past few months, the majority in its areas Gottsunda, Valsätra and Stenhagen. Saturday's apartment fire is not believed to be linked to the unrest.