Forest Fire: Swedish neoliberalism

The summer has been unusually hot in Sweden this year. There have also been periods of strong winds and little or no rainfall, all combined with record numbers of lightning bolts. This peculiar combination of weather conditions creates great risk for the occurrence of forest fires, as Radio Sweden (News in English: there is also a 30 minute sound track of the programme itself) explains. The fire has taken hold in a large area of Västmansland in the region of Norberg.  A separate Radio Sweden article deals very briefly with the current crisis, including the super scooters deployment.

For over a week the largest forest fire in Sweden’s recent history has been spreading with little to stop it. The acrid smell of first fire came over our house during one day, together with dark overcast skies, no doubt something like fire clouds as described in

This is still very much local news. As usual Sweden is a faraway country that few know much about. It hardly ever makes international news. I watched with amazement how a few helicopters kept up a shuttle service of topping up their buckets from a lake to drop the load on the fire. Wall Street Journal has an article but you need to subscribe to the journal to read it. The Swedish edition of The Local has an article on it.

Reuters has one and this at least has a photo of one of the helicopters at work, and mentions the Canadian Superscooper firefighting aircraft specially designed for fire-fighting. See for details. Like Sweden, Canada has large forests with many lakes to replenish the water-capacity of over 6,000 litres). But Sweden is very dependent on its forests which produce green gold. There was a TV documentary on the Superscooper in Sweden a couple of years ago.

Sweden has been cutting back on public expenditure for at least 20 years. It is of course, part of the budget savings that ironically give Sweden the security from sovereign debt, in the chaos of the European Union and the single currency.

So what happened? the fire fighters were exhausted after several days, material resources were stretched to the limit, the helicopters almost continuously struggling against the fire, dropping bucket-loads of lake water on the fire. Then someone had the brilliant idea to ask for French and Italian Superscooper firefighter aircraft.

So after several days delay they arrived and began their work. No doubt the savings made by not buying these aircraft and the trained pilots needed will be over-ruled by the authorities, despite the neoliberal need to save as much money as possible.


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