Stable night for Sweden wildfires after rainfall

Areas affected by major wildfires were stable overnight, due in part to rainfall on Saturday.

Stable night for Sweden wildfires after rainfall
Fire hoses running alongside a forest road in Ljusdal. Photo: TT

Gävleborg, a county north of Stockholm which has seen particularly severe blazes, was continuing firefighting work without the use of support from aircraft, TT reports.

The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (Myndigheten för samhällsskydd och beredskaps, MSB) will now focus on the next stage of its work to extinguish fires after the night saw stabilisation of the situations in Jämtland and Dalarna as well as in Gävleborg, MSB’s deputy director Mikael Tofvesson said at a press conference on Sunday morning.

“We have received notification from Gävleborg that they do not need support from the air at this stage,” Tofvesson said.

Due high and increasing risk of wildfires in southern Europe, two French firefighting aircraft that have assisted with the Swedish efforts will now return home, the deputy director confirmed.

“The French aircraft will return home on Tuesday. Their last operational day will be on Monday,” he said.

Once fires are extinguished, responsibility for observation of the areas will be returned to landowners.

“We must also look at how we will manage the next phase. We are working on several levels to assess this issue and the related risks,” Tofvesson said.

County authorities in Västmanland, which suffered devastating forest fires in 2014, will meet with MSB to discuss its experiences with post-wildfire management, he added.

A blaze in Torslanda Municipality yesterday, however, showed that wildfires are still able to spread quickly given the right conditions. A bolt of lightning is thought to have set off the fire, which began spreading quickly in a new direction after a change in wind conditions.

In other parts of the country, as many as 27 wildfires were still active as of Sunday morning according to SOS Alarm, despite the much-needed rain that fell in some places on Saturday.

More rain is forecast on Sunday in some affected areas including Hälsingland, but for others, such as Älvedalen, the prognosis is more uncertain, meteorological agency SMHI said.

READ ALSO: Sweden wildfires spark criticism of forest industry

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Record crowds on southern Swedish beaches despite coronavirus warnings

Temperatures of 30 degrees and up have caused southern Swedish sun worshipers to flock in record numbers to beaches and bathing areas.

Record crowds on southern Swedish beaches despite coronavirus warnings
Långholmsbadet, Stockholm in Saturday's 30-degree August heat. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg / TT

The police can do nothing about the congestion as long as no crimes are committed, as the Public Order Act which bans public gatherings of more than 50 people does not cover beaches and bathing areas. 

In Tylösand outside Halmstad, as many as 40,000 beach visitors gathered on Saturday.

At Kämpingestranden in Höllviken in Skåne, there has been a record number of visitors with over 10,000 guests, reports Kvällsposten. 

“It is an uncontrollable chaos. It is completely full”, says Pontus Carlsson, head of security at Falsterbonäset's lifeguard, to the newspaper.

According to Carlsson, it is impossible to get down to the beach due to the congestion. For security reasons, he does not let his staff walk around among the guests. 

“Where I stand now I do not see sand, I only see people.”

He and the staff have been forced to turn away cars that intended to park incorrectly. 

“It gets quite an angry atmosphere quite quickly, when everyone just goes to the beaches in a completely panicked way.”

The police in the South region have not responded to any cases in beach and bathing areas on Sunday.

“Ensuring that people keep their distance during corona times is not a police task.  In general, some land is privately owned and some is municipally owned, but no land belongs to the police.

“Our mission is order and safety – we come when people start threatening and fighting or when there is an accident,” police spokesman Ewa-Gun Westford told TT.

“I know that Simrishamn municipality and the road association produced a temporary emergency solution yesterday in Knäbäck outside Rörum beach. They put up signs that said ‘full – please choose another beach’.

Westford says that throughout her life in Österlen she has never experienced such crowds. 

“I'm out walking my dog ​​in Ystad now, and it's completely insane. There are an incredible number of people.”

The ban on gathering more than 50 people does not apply to beaches and bathing areas, but only to activities that can be classified as public gatherings or public events. 

Crowded in Pålsundet in Saturday's 30-degree August heat. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg / TT 

It includes theatre performances, cinemas, concerts, amusement parks, sporting events, dance performances, markets, street parties, festivals, demonstrations, lectures, religious gatherings and fairs. 

These events are regulated by the Public Order Act, which means that organisers risk being sentenced to a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of six months if the ban is broken. 

For other environments and activities where many people gather, the Swedish Public Health Agency's recommendations apply, which are not statutory.