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'It's great to be home': Swedes return to villages after fire evacuation

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'It's great to be home': Swedes return to villages after fire evacuation
Gabriella Persson Turdell's home, where she was able to return after a week-long evacuation. Photo: Gabriella Persson Turdell
17:46 CEST+02:00
On Thursday, some of the villagers in central Sweden who had to leave their homes due to the raging wildfires were able to return for the first time in seven days. The Local has been speaking to some of the residents affected to find out how it feels.

Swedish emergency services revoked the evacuation order for parts of Huskölen on Thursday afternoon (see a map here), which was followed by Finneby, where residents were allowed to return from 4pm on Friday afternoon.

"I don't know if everyone has returned home yet, but everyone who lives in Huskölen and Storån is allowed to return home now," a spokesperson from Härjedalen municipality told The Local on Friday afternoon when asked about the evacuees from Huskölen. "It's 24 people, more or less."

The Local spoke to Gabriella Persson Turdell, 53, who was one of the first to return to her home in Huskölen on Thursday. "It felt OK to be evacuated, at least when it was apparent that it was burning uncontrollably nearby. We stayed in Sveg, with family."

For her, the evacuation itself went smoothly, as she explains she could partially treat it like a holiday, and also took on the role of communicator between other evacuees, setting up a Facebook page to share information.

"We played with our grandchildren, made jam, delivered post to others from the village, hunted down information and led an info-page on Facebook to answer questions from others affected by the situation," she says. 

"The information from the municipality was, in my opinion, crap. The information from emergency services turned out to be better," she says.

"It's great to be home, unbelievable. It's still burning around us and it's dangerously dry in the fields. The first thing I did was water my flowers and check that nothing had been damaged. The house and garden are OK."

Staff from the municipality were on hand to offer support to the returning residents in Huskölen's school on Thursday. The evacuation order was in place for seven days, after police informed residents they needed to leave the area with only a few hours to gather their belongings and leave home.

READ ALSO: More about Sweden's unprecedented forest fires


Fire-damaged forest near Huskölen. Photo: TT

Sven-Göran Rystedt, 62, lives in neighbouring village Karlstrand. He said that the forest fire wasn't totally unexpected, given the weather conditions over the previous weeks and Sweden's past experience with fires, but what took him by surprise was the speed at which things happened.

"It was 3 or 4 in the morning that police came round knocking on our doors and telling us we had to leave. Luckily, my wife had started packing," he told The Local. "It was a tough time. We have dogs, and they had to come with us. It feels great to be back, of course."

Rystedt stayed just two kilometres from his home during the evacuation period, so like Turdell he was able to keep others updated on the situation.

As for what he was able to return to, he said: "There's been no damage over here, but on the other side  [closer to the fires] some summer houses and of course a large part of the forest have been burned. Here there's no damage, but there's still a lot of smoke – it changes all the time depending on the winds."

READ ALSO:

Huskölen was threatened by two of central Sweden's most serious fires, the one burning in Kårböle and one in Enskogen. In Hälsingland, at least 22 buildings have been destroyed according to the latest inventory, but this is still less damage than feared.

Emergency services in the area remain on alert with high temperatures forecast over the coming days meaning there is still a risk of further fires. This means firefighting helicopters are ready to be deployed.

Robert Strid, who has been running the emergency response in the area, said in a press conference early on Friday morning that the situation was "calmer" than it has been in recent days. "The focus has been on having as short an evacuation period as possible," he added.

However, Strid noted that the fires were likely to continue for at least several more weeks, and a lot would depend on how much rain and wind comes in that time.

Evacuation orders remained in place on Friday in Ängra, Kårböle and Enskogen in Ljusdal, as well as in Trängslet i Älvdalen.

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