The list of incidents related to climate change continues to grow.
A large forest fire devastated more than 300 ha in five days in a valley in northwest Finland, after an unusually hot start to summer in the Nordic country.
The country has not experienced this for 50 years.
The blaze, which started on Monday about 25 km south of the small port of Kalajoki on the Gulf of Bothnia, eased on Friday due in part to rains in the area, but is not yet fully under control, according to the officials. authorities.
"It is still burning, but the fire no longer progresses beyond a contained area of 300 ha, whose perimeter is eight kilometers," said the chief of operations of the fire brigade, Jarmo Haapanen.
"It will take at least a week, or even two or three, to manage to extinguish it completely", he judges.
After its hottest June on record, Finland is now battling its largest wildfire in 50 years (~ 400 hectares) #Kalajoki @jmccarty_geo pic.twitter.com/nG0qruzW0Q
- Alec Luhn (@ASLuhn) July 30, 2021
Some 250 people, including military reinforcements, were mobilized, as well as four helicopters, but no evacuation was necessary in this sparsely populated area, about 500 km north of Helsinki.
While still relatively small compared to the huge fires that ravaged Siberia or Canada this summer, the blaze is the largest in Finland since a fire in 1971, experts say.
“The 1971 one was 1,600 ha,” Jarmo Haapanen recalled.
Unusually hot June and July in Finland
The exact cause of the fire is unknown, he said. But the forests are dry after unusually hot June and July in Finland, where temperatures rose above 30 degrees in several areas. In the Nordic countries, forest fires remained rare and under control for a long time, but the dramatic fires in Sweden during the summer of 2018 (nearly 20,000 ha gone up in smoke) revealed the growing vulnerability of Northern Europe.
The Arctic and the outskirts of the polar circles are subject to more and more frequent heat waves, with a warming three times faster than elsewhere in the world which increases in particular the risk of forest or tundra fires, according to the reports. scientists. Finland is often cited as an example for its forest fire prevention, with a prevention policy that had made it possible to divide by ten the areas consumed since the post-war period. Forest fires there rarely exceed 50 or 100 ha, according to experts, but climate change is likely to be a game-changer. “If the climate warms our summers like this, I'm sure it will happen more often,” says firefighter Haapanen.