Sweden forest fires: How to stay safe in rural Sweden

Summer in Sweden often means long hikes, camping trips and, if you're lucky, excursions to summer houses. But with wildfires still burning across much of the country, you may be wondering if it's still safe to stick to your plans. Here are the precautions to take if you'll be in a rural area of Sweden soon.

Sweden forest fires: How to stay safe in rural Sweden
A fire engine convoy on its way to fight the wildfires. Photo: Anna Hållams/TT

Don't light a fire

There are widespread bans on lighting fires, including barbecues, in all public areas in many regions. This includes disposable barbecues, prepared fireplaces and even designated barbecue spots in public areas such as beaches, campsites and parks. 

Many regions have extended the ban to include private areas such as gardens (in some areas it's still OK to light a fire in a designated grilling spot, and in some it's still allowed if you ensure it's a safe space with no chance of spreading) and you can find out exactly which bans are in place by checking your region's website through these links. But whatever the exact wording of the ban in your area, bear in mind that the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency has urged against lighting any fires at all, and it's strongly advised to err on the side of caution.

If you think someone is violating the ban, you can call police on 114 14 (or 112 in an emergency situation). If you violate the ban and particularly if you cause a fire, you can be held liable and sentenced to a fine or even imprisonment.

Don't do anything likely to cause a fire

Avoiding open fires might seem like an obvious step to take, but there are other things you should be aware of in order to avoid contributing to the problem.

These include avoiding tossing cigarette butts or matches on the ground, avoiding smoking altogether in forests and fields, and avoiding use of machines likely to cause sparks or overheating.

Other precautions to take include ensuring you discard of all rubbish if you're out in nature: many kinds of rubbish are flammable, while a discarded bottle or piece of glass could be enough to start a fire in hot, dry conditions. Parking a vehicle on dry grass can also be a fire risk due to the heat from the vehicle.

A fire-damaged forest in Kårböle. Photo: Pernilla Wahlman/TT

Check for likely travel disruptions

The fires have led to some roads being closed off, and further disruptions are possible as the firefighting work continues.

Plan your route in advance by checking the Transport Administration's website to see which roads and areas are currently disrupted – click here for the most recent updates (in Swedish).

If you're worried about disruption to your journey, you can also call the Transport Administration on 0771-921 921 for up-to-date information in English. And while travelling, pay close attention to any road signs.

If you find yourself near a fire

If you see an open fire, call the special emergency service number 113 13 to report it – but authorities advise against reporting sightings of smoke, as this can spread over a large area. If you're at risk, call the emergency number 112, but avoid doing this unless you're in urgent need, as the wildfire situation has put strain on the service and has led to slightly slower answering times. All operators speak both English and Swedish.

You may also want to seek health advice if you have concerns about smoke inhalation, which is most serious in children, the elderly or people with respiratory conditions. If your situation isn't urgent, call 1177 for free, where you can explain your symptoms in Swedish or English and ask for advice. Call 112 or head to your nearest hospital if you need urgent medical attention.

As well as the fire risk, Sweden is experiencing unusually high temperatures so be prepared with water and sun cream before heading into nature, and be aware of the symptoms of heatstroke. 

A helicopter drops water to fight one of the fires. Photo: Robert Henriksson/TT

Follow all information from the authorities

This is the most important item on the list. The wildfire situation may change quickly and it's crucial to keep yourself updated. The dry weather means that it doesn't take much for new fires to take hold and spread quickly, and authorities have warned that the risk remains “extreme”, even in the south, which has so far been far less seriously affected than central and northern Sweden. You can find the fire risk for the next few days on the website of weather forecasters SMHI.

The emergency service website SOS Alarm has regular updates giving an overview of the wildfire situation, including a map showing the fires currently burning. Local municipalities and regions will share relevant updates on their own homepages and social media (find a list of the pages to check here) – you can also get in touch with them directly, but be aware that the most severely affected regions may be receiving a lot of calls. It's also possible to download the Civil Contingencies Agency's app Brandrisk UTE (Fire risk) to check the situation on your phone.

Check Krisinformation as well, where you'll find government-provided information about the active VMAs (Important Messages to the Public). This includes evacuation orders as well as notices to stay inside with doors and windows closed in areas with heavy smoke.

For detailed information and the latest updates, tune into Sveriges Radio P4 in the region you're in, where there should also be regular updates on the traffic situation. Note that Swedish Radio's English-language service is also providing regular updates on the wildfire situation, and The Local has information regarding current evacuation orders, but please refer to authorities for the most recent information.

Finally, it's a good idea to let someone else know your plans ahead of time, perhaps even deciding on times when you'll check in with them. That way, if you find yourself in danger and without phone signal, they will be able to alert authorities.

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How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans

After long months of lockdowns and curfews Europeans are looking forward to jetting off for a bit of sun and sand -- only to find that their long awaited holiday plans go awry due to a shortage of rental cars.

How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans
Tourists wait outside of rental car agencies in Corsica. Photo: PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

In many areas popular with tourists cars are simply not available or subcompacts are going for a stiff €500 euros.

Car rental comparison websites show just how expensive renting a vehicle has become for tourists this summer.

According to Carigami, renting a car for a week this summer will set tourists back an average of 364 euros compared to 277 euros two years ago.

For Italy, the figure is 407 euros this summer compared to 250 euros in 2019. In Spain, the average cost has jumped to 263 euros from 185 euros.

According to another website, Liligo, daily rental costs have nearly doubled on the French island of Corsica. At the resort city of Palma on the Spanish island of Mallorca, rental prices have nearly tripled.

Today’s problem is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Faced with near absence of clients, selling off vehicles to raise cash made a lot of sense for car rental firms struggling to survive.

“Everyone drastically reduced their fleet,” said the head of Europcar, Caroline Parot.

Until the spring, most companies still had fleets roughly a third smaller than in 2019, she said.

Car rental firms are used to regularly selling their vehicles and replacing them, so rebuilding their inventory should not have been a problem.

Except the pandemic sent demand for consumer electronics surging, creating a shortage of semiconductors, or chips, that are used not only in computers but increasingly in cars.

“A key contributor to the challenge right now is the global chip shortage, which has impacted new vehicle availability across the industry at a time when demand is already high,” said a spokesman for Enterprise.

It said it was working to acquire new vehicles but that in the mean time it is shifting cars around in order to better meet demand.

No cars, try a van

“We’ve begun to warn people: if you want to come to Italy, which is finally reopening, plan and reserve ahead,” said the head of the association of Italian car rental firms, Massimiliano Archiapatti.

He said they were working hard to meet the surge in demand at vacation spots.

“But we’ve got two big islands that are major international tourism destinations,” he said, which makes it difficult to move cars around,
especially as the trip to Sardinia takes half a day.

“The ferries are already full with people bringing their cars,” he added.

“Given the law of supply and demand, there is a risk it will impact on prices,” Archiapatti said.

The increase in demand is also being seen for rentals between individuals.

GetAround, a web platform that organises such rentals, said it has seen “a sharp increases in searches and rentals” in European markets.

Since May more than 90 percent of cars available on the platform have been rented on weekends, and many have already been booked for much of the summer.

GetAround has used the surge in demand to expand the number of cities it serves.

For some, their arrival can’t come fast enough.

Bruno Riondet, a 51-year-old aeronautics technician, rents cars to attend matches of his favourite British football club, Brighton.

“Before, to rent a car I was paying between 25 and 30 euros per day. Today, it’s more than 90 euros, that’s three times more expensive,” he said.

In the United States, where prices shot higher during the spring, tourists visiting Hawaii turned to renting vans.

In France, there are still cars, according to Jean-Philippe Doyen, who handles shared mobility at the National Council of Automobile Professionals.

“Clients have a tendency to reserve at the last minute, even more so in the still somewhat uncertain situation,” he said.

They will often wait until just a few days before their trip, which means car rental firms don’t have a complete overview of upcoming demand, he added.

He said business is recovering but that revenue has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels as travel is not yet completely unfettered.

SEE ALSO: British drivers will no longer need an insurance ‘green card’ to visit Europe, EU rules