Wildfire in Iceland–firefighters denied helicopter

Photo: Eyglo Svala Arnarsdottir

I have always been intrigued by Iceland. Unlike it’s neighbor Greenland, there is quite a bit of vegetation on the small island nation. About one-fourth of the area of Iceland has a continuous plant cover.

But today was the first time that I had heard of a wildfire there.

On Monday, firefighters there fought a fire from 5 PM until 7 AM. It was a walk-in through difficult terrain. They asked for a helicopter to assist, presumably with a water bucket, and the request was denied…twice.

From the Iceland Review:

The wildfire occurred in the same place as Friday,” (head of the fire department)  Asmundur Jónsson said. The area is 420 meters above sea level, up in the mountain. The road leading there is treacherous and firemen have to walk through lava and thick moss, sometimes reaching their knees. A rescue squad transported equipment and supplies to the fire fighters.

The firemen experimented with additives in the water, intended to increase its effectiveness. The experiment went well, Jónsson said.

“I have been trying to get the helicopter twice and have been denied both times. They said that since no property was under risk in the moss fire in the heath east of Kleifarvatn Lake and no summer houses were in jeopardy, there was no need for it. However, many centuries’ old vegetation was being destroyed.”

Jónsson said that a source of water was only three kilometers away from the area. Being a difficult path to travel by foot, it would have been so easy for the helicopter. “It would have taken care of the fire in an hour or so,” he explained. “The conditions there are tremendous.”

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.