This satellite image shows wildfire smoke over central Siberia on 3 July 2018. Photo: NASA / MODIS

By Jonathan Watts
18 July 2018

(The Guardian) – At least 11 wildfires are raging inside the Arctic Circle as the hot, dry summer turns an abnormally wide area of Europe into a tinderbox.

The worst affected country, Sweden, has called for emergency assistance from its partners in the European Union to help fight the blazes, which have broken out across a wide range of its territory and prompted the evacuations of four communities.

Tens of thousands of people have been warned to remain inside and close windows and vents to avoid smoke inhalation. Rail services have been disrupted.

The Copernicus Earth observation programme, which gives daily updates of fires in Europe, shows more than 60 fires burning across Sweden, with sites also ablaze in Norway, Finland, and Russia, including in the Arctic Circle.

Norway has sent six fire-fighting helicopters in response to its neighbour’s request for assistance. Italy is sending two Canadair CL-415s – which can dump 6,000 litres of water on each run – to Örebro in central southern Sweden.

In western Sweden, fire-fighting operations were temporarily halted near an artillery training range near Älvdalen forest due to concerns that unexploded ordnance might be detonated by the extreme heat.

Residents in Uppsala said they could see the plumes of smoke and have been banned from barbecuing in national parks, after 18 consecutive days without rain.

“This is definitely the worst year in recent times for forest fires. Whilst we get them every year, 2018 is shaping up to be excessive,” said Mike Peacock, a university researcher and local resident. […]

“What we’re seeing with this global heatwave is that these areas of fire susceptibility are now broadening, with the moors in north-west England and now these Swedish fires a consequence of that,” said Vincent Gauci, professor of global change ecology at the Open University. [more]

Wildfires rage in Arctic Circle as Sweden calls for help

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