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Sweden forest fires: Weekend of rain brings huge improvements

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Sweden forest fires: Weekend of rain brings huge improvements
Firefighters tackle a forest fire. Photo: Andreas Hillergren/TT
13:53 CEST+02:00
The wildfire situation across Sweden had significantly improved on Monday, following a weekend of rain which was welcomed by the firefighters who have been battling for weeks to bring the fires under control.

There were still 12 fires burning across the country on Monday afternoon, but this was a huge improvement on the previous week when between 30 and 70 fires were burning each day.

The major fires covered around 19,000 hectares in total, across the municipalities of Gävleborg, Dalarna, and Jämtland.

Sweden's Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) said the situation had improved enough for several of the firefighting aircraft and water bombers brought in from other countries to be able to return home.

"Resources from Germany, France and Portugal, among others, are now leaving Sweden and we want to say a big thank you to them for their important work," Britta Ramberg, the MSB's head of operations, said on Monday.

The MSB also cancelled a request for firefighting planes from Turkey, which had so far been unable to depart to join the efforts due to unfavourable weather conditions.

INTERVIEW: 'I didn't expect this could happen in Sweden': Polish firefighter in Kårböle

Meanwhile, the evacuated residents of around 100 households in the Kårböle area were allowed to return home almost two weeks after being told to leave their homes due to the risk posed by one of the country's largest fires. Several other small villages were declared safe enough for residents to return, though evacuation orders remained in place for some areas on Monday afternoon.

On Friday, The Local spoke to some of the first evacuated Swedes to return home after the villages of Huskölen and Finneby, close to Kårböle, were given the all-clear by emergency services. 

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

On Sunday morning, the municipality of Jämtland reported that its emergency services were no longer active in fighting forest fires in the area, following a heavy downpour of rain. This does not mean that the fires in the area have been entirely extinguished, but that they have been brought sufficiently under control for local landowners to take over the firefighting efforts.

In Älvdalen, where one of the most difficult-to-fight blazes has been burning over a military shooting range, firefighting efforts also seemed to have been successful, with the German firefighters who had been assisting with the efforts returning home on Monday. 

The fire risk remains extremely high across almost all of Sweden, according to meteorological agency SMHI, despite the recent rainfall. Meanwhile, bans on starting fires -- including bonfires and barbecues, in some areas even in private gardens -- remain in place across much of the country.

Firefighting resources remained in place, with the MSB saying that ten helicopters and members of the army were available to step in to fight any new fires, while in most places the extinguishing work is currently being able to be carried out on the ground.

 

 

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