Lightning sets off 100 forest fires

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UPDATED: More than 100 forest and brush fires were burning all over Southern Norway, some of them out of control, on Thursday afternoon and evening. Extremely dry conditions and strong winds were posing huge challenges for emergency crews.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) inteviewed a weary firefighter as a cabin burned in the background. The cabin at Gautefall in Telemark couldn’t be saved, but crews kept the fire from spreading. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

State broadcaster NRK reported fires in the Agder counties, Telemark, Vestfold, Østfold, Buskerud, Hedmark and Oppland. NRK reported 15 fires in Østfold alone (the county just southeast of Oslo), five in Agder, at least seven in Telemark and 30 in Buskerud.

By Thursday evening the numbers had risen to more than 30 in Østfold, around 25 in Agder, around 50 in Telemark and 52 in Buskerud. A few others were burning out of control in Østre Toten.

Lightning that swept over much of the southern part of the country also sparked fires “many places” in Akershus, the county surrounding in the west, north and east. Around 40 fire trucks were sent out to battle blazes at Minnesund, Aurskog-Høland and Sørum.

“It can’t go more bananas than this, given the numbers of fire,” a harried worker taking calls a brannvesenet, the state fire authority, told NRK.

‘Can’t respond to them all’
“It’s burning so many places that the fire brigades can’t respond to them all,” Jan Karlsen of the state emergency central told NRK earlier in the day. Another operations leader said calls were coming in from all over the Innland district that covers counties away from the coast.

The fires were sparked by lightning and thunder storms that moved in after several more days of extremely warm temperatures. That’s extended a drought that’s left huge areas so dry “that every little thing can ignite,” said Oddbjørn Wikan of the emergency central in Telemark.

Fires were raging from Treungen in Nissedal to Haukeli in the mountains beyond Vinje in Telemark.

Raining in Oslo
Fires were also reported all over the southeast, in Halden, Skjeberg, Sarpsborg, Rakkestad and Indre Østfold after lightning struck in several places. It was raining in Oslo, offering some welcome relief from the heat, but it was unclear whether any rain was helping douse fires south of the capital.

One fire in Telemark was moving towards Notodden and an area with many holiday homes. Firefighters were gaining control over fires in Skien, Vinje, Tokke, Nissedal and Drangedal.

Helicopters have been standing by to swing into action and dump water over remote areas that suddenly were burning. Some were hindered by ongoing lightning, however, and civil defense forces were being called out to help battle the blazes. At 9pm, the main emergency service for Southern Norway (Hovedredningssentralen) reported that 13 helicopters were standing by while others were in action after the lightning storm passed.

The fire near Notodden in Telemark was considered especially serious, with flames coming close to the major east-west E134 highway that runs through the area. Fire fighters had asked for extra resources to handle it.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund