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Video shows Muhos forest fire aftermath

The blaze destroyed large swathes of forest this week.

On Friday dozens of firefighters were still onsite, after a large swath of forest was lost to a major fire that broke out on Monday in Muhos, northern Ostrobothnia.

250 hectares of forest has now gone. Forest expert Matti Lappalainen helped put out the blaze and said the scale and ferocity of the fire surprised him.

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Palomies ajaa mönkijällä palaneen metsän keskellä.
Firefighter drives an all-terrain-vehicle through the sooty forest. Image: Risto Degerman / Yle

"I came here to the area on Monday as it was burning and now, afterwards to take a look. It's quite a heartbreaking sight," said Lappalainen, who's become very familiar with the forests of Muhos over the past decade.

Extinguishing such a large-scale blaze doesn't happen overnight. Small embers hidden underground can flare up for weeks after the forest floor has been quenched, a situation that may result in firefighters standing by at the site for quite a while to come.

In addition to the fire and rescue department, conscripts from the Kainuu Brigade also assisted.

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Sammutusryhmä tauolle metsäpalon sammutuksen yhteydessä.
Conscipts from the Kainuu Brigade assisted in fighting the fire. Image: Risto Degerman / Yle

At 10pm on Wednesday 23 conscripts arrived at the scene and worked at fighting the conflagration until six the following morning. After a couple of hours rest, the conscripts went back to battling the fire into the afternoon.

After that, another crew from the garrison arrived to replace them.

Corporal Anthony Whelan said this was the first time he'd been involved in fighting a forest fire.

"This is interesting [work], not your ordinary day as a conscript," he explained.

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Metsäpalon jälkiä Muhoksella
View from above. Image: Timo Nykyri / Yle

The work is physically demanding, as forest fires aren't extinguished by water alone.

Deposits of peat, particularly along ditches, can hide underground fires, so water is sprayed into them, and then the workers need to dig up the heavy, soaked peat to make sure a new fire doesn't start.

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Metsäoja palaneen metsän keskellä.
A small creek was spared by the blaze. Image: Risto Degerman / Yle

"This is rough, sweaty work. The boys will certainly sleep well tonight," the brigade's senior lieutenant Teijo Nurmikumpu said.

Once the fire is completely extinguished, work can begin on salvaging what's left of the forest. Forest expert Lappalainen said the scorched timber won't be suitable for anything besides burning it as biofuel or firewood. The forest's floor was also charred and many animals were lost in the blaze.

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Palanutta mäntymetsää.
Muhos forest blackened by the blaze. Image: Risto Degerman / Yle

But Lappalainen said he found at least one thing comforting in all the devastation.

"Burnt forests are always replaced with new forests, it can't be prevented. But how and when is up to the forest owners," Lappalainen said.

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