Increasing humidity and some rain has limited the spread of the largest forest fire which has been ongoing for 7 days in the northern part of Västmanland in Sweden. One person has been found dead and some 4,000 homes were evacuated a few days ago. Some of those evacuated can now begin to return.
The fire followed 2 weeks of quite warm weather over the entire country with temperatures around 30ºC (high, but not unknown at this times of year and no records were broken).
What became quite clear was that the equipment available to the emergency services was sadly lacking. Three successive governments have taken the easy opportunity of cutting emergency services and there were just no helicopters or planes available in the country for containing the fire. One was requested from Italy yesterday but could not be sent. Another from France is only arriving today. Needless to say they will probably arrive after the point at which they could have done the most good. If it continues to rain today, they will be irrelevant.
Before 1850, fires consumed 250 times larger areas of forest in Sweden than today. It has been the “industrial harvesting” of forests which has drastically reduced the incidence of forest fires. And it has been the complacency brought about by the low incidence of forest fires which has led to a reduced preparedness to fight the fires when they do occur.
The climate alarmists (and there are many of them in Sweden) have not been slow to blame the fire on global warming. A little depressing to hear people so ready to switch off all their rational faculties and parroting what sounds like a climate catechism.!!
But a few sane voices can also be heard.
Two hundred years ago forest fires raged much more freely in Swedish forests. It was when humans began to harvest the forest that fires reduced.
“Swedish forests burned much more in historical times” says Bengt-Gunnar Jonsson, professor of plant ecology at Mid- University. “Just a few hundred years ago one percent of Swedish forests burned each year. 250 thousand hectares every year. Today only about a thousand acres are lost to forest fires every year“.
Bengt-Gunnar Jonsson sees three separate eras of fires in the Swedish forests. From prehistoric times to the seventeenth century there were only a few but very large fires. From the seventeenth century until the mid-nineteenth century, when the population increased and people started residing there, the number of fires increased but they were smaller. In the mid-nineteenth century industrial forestry started and the number of forest fires declined sharply. There was a dramatic shift to a landscape where people – rather than fire – harvested the trees.
“Even the very first people in Sweden might have affected how much it burned in the woods”, according to Bengt-Gunnar Jonsson. “Although we have observed fires for several thousand years, we cannot really explain effects of climate and lightning. Many argue that even the ancient fires had a human footprint. It could be that humans have influenced fire history since the ice retreated”.
Västmanland forest fire 2014 – Jocke Berglund -TT