State boosts fire preparedness

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UPDATED: Fire broke out once more on the Flatanger peninsula in Nord-Trøndelag during the weekend, and returning residents had to be evacuated again. Fire danger remains so high along Norway’s west coast that the state agency for safety and preparedness, DSB, is adding helicopter assistance and the government is providing more funding for prevention and emergency operations.

King Harald and Queen Sonja (second and third from left) gaze at the remains of a burned-out home in Hasvåg in Nord-Trondelag on Friday. PHOTO: kongehuset.no

King Harald and Queen Sonja (second and third from left) gaze at the remains of a burned-out home at Hasvåg in Nord-Trondelag on Friday. The next day, Hasvåg residents were evacuated once again. PHOTO: kongehuset.no

The new fire on Flatanger threatened homes again in the small community of Hasvåg, where 64 buildings were destroyed by fire last week. Hasvåg residents were evacuated late Saturday night, and firefighters continued to battle the blaze Sunday morning until it was brought under control.

Another fire on Saturday, farther to the south in Hordaland, forced more evacuations while police worried about higher potential for arson.

The unusually dry conditions can tempt would-be arsonists, Bergen Fire Chief Johnny Breivik told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). A total ban on outdoor campfires imposed this week from Rogaland in the south to Nordland in the north, along with the massive publicity about high fire danger, can “wake up sleeping bears” in the form of arsonists who want to spark trouble.

Breivik said there’s been a rash of small fires that are suspicious, and police also worry that some people are lighting campfires in defiance of the ban. Five fires flared up at Sotra late this week.

Police evacuated 20 homes early Saturday morning after a fire started in an abandoned school in Sveio, Hordaland County. Firefighters brought the fire under control by 9:30am and its origin was under investigation.

DSB (Direktoratet for samfunnssikkerhet og beredskap) now has helicopters stationed at Værnes and Sauda and ready to respond in an emergency.

Finance Minister Siv Jensen announced on Saturday that the government was also allocating another NOK 20 million (more than USD 3 million) in funds to the Coast Guard, which helped fight fires in Trøndelag earlier this week, and to the main emergency response unit (Hovedredningssentralen). Jensen said at a meeting of her Progress Party in Bodø on Saturday that the extra money should help boost both patrols and search and rescue operations, also oil spill prevention.

King Harald and Queen Sonja, meanwhile, visited the Flatanger peninsula in Nord-Trøndelag on Friday after it was razed by one of the major brushfires that was set off by strong winds that tangled electrical power lines. The royal couple met with both emergency crews and locals who lost holiday homes and businesses in Hasvåg and Småvære, to offer support and thank the firefighters for their efforts.

It was the second royal visit to a fire-ravaged area in just over a week, after the king and queen also traveled to the historic mountain community of Lærdal, which was hit hard by a fire that razed scores of wooden buildings. Another major fire broke out on the island of Frøya this week, and police confirmed Friday that it was ignited by school children playing with a lighter.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund