Inferno calms, but danger remains

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An inferno which has all but flattened several coastal communities on a peninsula in Flatanger, Nord-Trøndelag was coming under control on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning the fire still raged in a 15 square kilometre area, though, and police warned winds could pick up again during the day.

A crew member on the rescue boat RS Harald V sprays water on to the fire. While fire fighters on the ground hold containment lines and helicopters water bomb the blaze, rescue and coast guard boats are tasked with stopping the fire front jumping from the peninsula and across the bay. PHOTO: Redningsselskapet

A crew member on the rescue boat RS Harald V sprays water on to the fire. While fire fighters on the ground hold containment lines and helicopters water bomb the blaze, rescue and coast guard boats are tasked with stopping the fire front jumping from the peninsula and across the bay. PHOTO: Redningsselskapet

About 90 firefighters patrolled fire breaks overnight, spraying water on the containment lines to create belts of ice, while a helicopter and the Coast Guard monitored the blaze from the air and sea, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Wind gusts caused a flare-up shortly after midnight, and at one point threatened fire equipment pumping water from a lake on the peninsula.

The Norwegian Armed Forces (Forsvaretreleased footage (external link) taken from a helicopter, showing the kilometres-long fire front and the scorched landscape left behind. On Wednesday morning the front was centred south of Eldvika and west of Hårnes. On Tuesday it ended up destroying about 90 buildings, including homes, businesses and holiday cabins across the coastal hamlets of  Hasvåg and Småværet. All 33 residents escaped, and the fire did not destroy all 139 buildings on the peninsula as police first feared.

Air and sea
“Luckily the wind has calmed in the fire area during the night, but it’s blowing steadily from the southeast and could strengthen again,” Ulf Bertil Wiseth from Nord-Trøndelag police told NRK. He said Wednesday’s efforts depended on getting water bombing helicopters into the air as early as possible: “The way the wind conditions are right now, it should be possible to get the helicopters up in the air to help extinguish the fire.” Strong winds kept much most of the helicopter fleet grounded throughout Tuesday, but some were joining firefighting efforts on Wednesday.

On Tuesday night the coast guard vessel KV Bergen arrived to pump water onto the shore, stopping the firestorm from jumping the bay. Rough weather overnight hampered the plans, as the boat couldn’t stay anchored and the winds limited the water’s trajectory.

Power review needed
Witnesses reported that the fire broke out on Monday night when electricity cables sparked in high winds, igniting extremely dry undergrowth. The area has had an extremely dry spell without precipitation throughout January, and humidity was down to 33 percent before the fire broke out reported, newspaper Aftenposten. Investigators arrived on Tuesday night to interview locals and inspect the ignition point to rule out any crime.

The head of Norway’s Fire Protection Association (Norsk Brannvernforenings), Dagfinn Kalheim said it’s important to look into the way high-voltage cables run across the country. “The cables are stretched so they obviously don’t come into contact with each other,” he said. “But we live in a time of increasingly more extreme weather, including very strong wind gusts. The collision can cause small pieces of metal at extremely high temperatures to be thrown out from the cables and land on the tinder-dry ground, with dry leaves from last autumn.”

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate