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Severe forest fire risk prompts countrywide ban on open fires

Finnish authorities have warned the public against making open fires, as an index assessing forest fire risk reaches a historic high throughout the country.

metsästä tulee savua
A forest fire in Helsinki's Hallainvuori forest area on 26 May 2018 Image: Petri Kejonen / Yle

Rescue services in Finland have responded to several alarms triggered by forest fires in recent days. The Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) has issued a forest fire warning for almost the entire country.

Those few areas in Lapland that aren't under a forest fire warning at present have a grass fire warning in effect, and this warning is expected to develop into a forest fire warning next week if conditions remain dry.

6 out of 6

The FMI has rated the warning index at over 5.5 out of a maximum of 6 in many areas in the south and heart of Finland.

The Oulu-Koillismaa region's rescue services unit wrote on Facebook on Saturday afternoon that "Finland's forest fire index is approaching an historic high of 6.0".

The index is a tool that FMI has developed to assess forest fire risk in Finland with indicators like humidity, temperature, wind velocity, solar radiation and rainfall.

The Oulu-Koillismaa unit reminds the public that it is forbidden to make campfires and any kind of other open fires during forest fire alerts in Finland. This rule also applies to so-called disposable or instant grills.

FMI meteorologist Henri Nyman says he can't recall when the forest fire index would have ever been so high.

"An index rating of 6 has probably been calculated at some point in history somewhere in Finland, but not necessarily in Koillismaa," he said.

Abnormally dry

He says the existence of such severe forest fire warnings this early n the summer is also rare, as conditions are usually driest at the end of summer after weeks and weeks of sunshine.

Nyman said the high index rating might be a bit misleading, however, as the moisture content in the ground is only based on readings taken up to six centimetres under the surface.

"After the wet autumn and winter, there is still plenty of water in Finland's waterways and there is surely quite a bit of it to be found deeper underground," he says.

Yle meteorologist Kerttu Kotakorpi says that the current weather forecast predicts no relief, as there is hardly any rain on the horizon for next week. A slight chance of light showers is forecast for Wednesday in the lower half of the country, but the total amount of rainfall will not be enough to eliminate the forest fire risk.

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