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Wildfires rage in Lapland, more threaten Finland from the east

Grass and forest fires are proving difficult to contain in Finnish Lapland, and now several fires on the Russian side of the border are moving into Finland.

Ilmakuva Kittilän maastopalosta.
Aerial shot of a forest fire in Kittilä on July 18. Image: Lapin pelastuslaitos
Yle News

Firefighters are working round-the-clock to extinguish several wildfires in Finnish Lapland, while similar fires in Russia are within kilometers of the Finnish-Russian border.

On Saturday morning, Lapland Rescue Services said the situation in the eastern border municipality of Salla had worsened overnight.

"A quite strong fire in Salla's Kotala area is less than a kilometre away from the border. Sparks could ignite the Finnish side at any time," said Ari Soppela, the Lapland rescue unit's communications director.

Border crossing shut down

A wildfire that crossed the border already at Raja-Jooseppi in Inari caused the border crossing between Finland and Russia to be shutdown Friday evening. The Border Guard has joined rescue services in the effort to put out the blaze, contributing a helicopter, several units and a band of conscripts.

Russia has informed the Finns that the fire has crossed the road connecting the cities of Lotta and Murmansk on the eastern side of the border, temporarily prohibiting traffic on the eastern side of the border crossing.

"We have several units that we have gathered from around Lapland working there, but we are trying to recruit even more people to help," Soppela said, mentioning the Oulu-Koillismaa rescue services and the Defence Forces specifically.

Danger from lightening strikes

He is concerned that lightning strikes could start even more blazes in the area.

"They could escalate existing fires, or in the worst-case scenario, start new pockets of fire throughout Lapland. We have units throughout the area on alert," Soppela said.

He says fighting the Lapland fires has proved exceptionally difficult, as they have spread to large areas and they are in places that are difficult to reach.

Close call in Rovaniemi, Sweden battles over 80 blazes

Meanwhile, another wildfire moved dangerously close to Lapland's largest municipality of Rovaniemi on Friday afternoon, burning a six hectare area near the Santavaara district of the city. Rescue Services reports that the fire was within 100 metres of some dwellings before they successfully got the fire under control.

Fires are also ravaging Sweden after an unusually dry and warm spring and summer in northern Europe. As of Friday evening, 83 separate forest fires were estimated to be burning there.

Wildfires are burning out of control over very large areas near Brattsjö, Fågelsjö, Kårböle and Trängslet – all north of Stockholm. Up to 500 people have been evacuated and Swedish forest administrators say that over 58 million euros of forest has already gone up in smoke.

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