Warm, dry weather sparks fire danger

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All it took was a week of sunny skies and warm temperatures over most of southern Norway to bring out the flip side of the gorgeous weather – high fire danger. The lack of rain and rapid snow melt that’s already been absorbed into the ground sparked brush fires over the weekend and warnings of more.

Authorities were appealing to the public to be especially careful when out enjoying the sudden spate of sunny weather that led to summer-like conditions from Sarpsborg to Bergen to Trondheim and Oslo. A brush fire that flared up again on Sunday in the mountains known as Edlandsfjellet, in the west coast county of Rogaland, was caused by one of the portable and disposable grills known as engangsgriller that are so popular with Norwegians.

Guilty griller rang the alarm
More than 70 firefighters from the Sør-Rogaland fire brigade were called in to battle the blaze, after the guilty griller had called for help and admitted he’d started the fire after using a portable grill in the area.

Campfires outside designated areas are prohibited in many forested areas around Norway but regulations allow the use of the portable grills. Officials warn, though, that using them in areas where the grass and brush are especially dry is a bad idea.

“There can be major consequences,” Hans Kristian Madsen of the state directorate for safety and preparedness (DSB) told news bureau NTB. “One tiny spark can quickly lead to major fires, and the loss of homes.” He and his colleagues were also warning against smoking in dry areas outdoors because of the unusually dry conditions.

Highest level of warnings
State meteorologists started issuing forest and brush fire warnings last week after just a few days of the warm and dry weather that descended on much of southern Scandinavia just before the Easter holidays. It has continued, and now the state agencies are sending out the highest possible warnings of fire danger along the West Coast and in Trøndelag, which already was hit by major fires last winter when there was little rain and snow.

Warnings are also posted east of the mountains, in counties such as Oppland, Hedmark, Østfold and Akershus. They went up just as folks flocked outdoors to enjoy the fine weather with picnics and grill parties after a gloomy winter.

“Folks have to be very, very careful,” Madsen said. “Even just a cigarette butt can set off a major fire.”

Firefighters continued to struggle Monday with the brushfire at Edlandsfjellet and  Ålgårdsheiene south of Stavanger, which spread and had begun to threaten neighbouring communities. Firefighters were also busy with a blaze at Time in the same region, reportd NTB. Authorities stressed that it’s now so dry in the hills that there’s a total ban on any use of open flame in Stavanger, Sandnes, Klepp, Time, Gjesdal, Knitsøy, Rennesøy, Randaberg and Sola.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund