Norway: rare winter brush fire burns numerous structures

Norway fire
Norway fire
Photo by Ole Martin Dahle.

(Updated at 10:23 MST, January 30, 2014)

IR image Frøya Fire
Screen shot image from F-16 infrared video of firefighters at a fire near Frøya, Norway. In the video you can see firefighters dragging hoses, and appear to have to retreat as they are subjected to a shower of burning embers, which show up as white in the video.

Wildfire Today reader Bjørn Ivar Haugdal reports that the 3,000-acre fire in Norway we told you about earlier did not destroy as many structures as previously thought, and the number now stands at 55.

A new fire in Norway near Frøya has burned about 2,000 acres. Lighter winds have made it possible for civilian (Eurocopter AS350) and military (Bell 412SP) helicopters to assist firefighters. Water sources in lakes have to be opened with axes and chain saws, and water sprayed on vegetation quickly freezes in the -2C (28F) weather. There are reports that the fire started when children who were ice skating were playing with a lighter in the dry grass.

An F-16 fighter has been used as an aerial observation platform, streaming live video down to big screens at a command center on the ground. In a recording of the infrared video, at the 40-second mark you can see firefighters dragging hoses away from the head of the fire while they are being showered with hot embers, which show up as white in the video.

Below is a rough Google translation of a description of how military assets assisted firefighters:

Wednesday afternoon, two fire engines with eight soldiers from fire, rescue and room service (BRP) at Orland Main Air Base sent to the fire-ravaged Freya to participate in fire fighting. They were joined by a separate fire pump and a sekshjuling (ATV).

Defence Logistics Organisation sent a tank of fuel which ensures that the helicopters can easily access the fuel to get the most effective fighters. Four Bell 412 helicopters from Bardufoss and Rygge was sent to the fire area to assist in extinguishing efforts.

An air coordination element of defense contributes to coordinate air traffic in the area so the helicopter quenching capacity was utilized in the best possible way.

Coast guard vessels KV Bergen and KV Njord took part in extinguishing the work after the engagement in Flatanger was completed.

National Guard participates with 30 soldiers from the HV-12. In addition to Hitra and HV area are several nearby HV areas alerted and are ready to provide support if the need arises.

An F-16 fighters from Orland Main Air Station filmed fire and sent this live on big screens at the police control so the police and fire department received an overview of how the fire progressed.

A video clip taken from fighter plane Wednesday night shows how firefighters use fire pumps out on the ice in Langvatnet by Måsheia and smoke, sparks and burning objects flying over them.

The video below was shot from a drone over the earlier fire at Laerdalsoyri Village.


(Updated at 12:33 p.m. MST, January 28, 2014)

Wildfire Today reader Bjørn Ivar has given us some updated information, saying about 90 structures have burned. Strong winds are still making it impossible to use helicopters, but Civil Defense personnel are using chain saws to cut holes in the ice on lakes so that the freshwater sources can be used for dip sites for the helicopters with water buckets. Some degree of containment has been reached, Mr. Ivar said, and the fires are still within the peninsula.


(Originally published at 9:54 a.m. MST, January 28, 2014)

A rare January brush fire has burned scores of structures in the Norway villages of Hasvag and Smavaeret. Police believe the fire started Monday when strong winds blew two powerlines together.

The reports on the number of homes and other structures that have burned vary greatly. There could be as many as 95 that are damaged or destroyed.

Norway fire. Photo by Crews RS Harlald V.
Photo by Crews RS Harlald V.

At least one Coast Guard vessel with firefighting capabilities was used in an attempt to protect some structures near the harbor. The UPI quoted Tor Helge Waago, the captain of a rescue boat, saying: “Nobody can do anything,” he said. “If we go in to extinguish fires on Smavaeret, the boat will catch fire.”

Norway fire rescue boat

Wildfire Today reader Bjørn Ivar told us strong winds gusting up to 25 m/s (55 mph) have grounded the five or six helicopters that firefighters would like to use on the fire. Other challenges include the temperature of -3C (27F) and there being only one road into the area which leads into the middle of the fire. Mr. Ivar said at least 740 acres have burned, and possibly many more.

There are reports that the vegetation is extremely dry in the area and that there has been no precipitation for over a month.

Map of Norway fires
Map of Norway fires by NRK

Below are some excerpts from an article at NewsInEnglish:

“People are safe, but we’re not sure how it’s going with buildings in Småværet, Hasvåg and Harståd,” said Rune Reinsborg from Nord-Trøndelag police. He said strong southeast winds were fanning the flames through bone dry brush, making conditions difficult for about 50 firefighters and Norwegian Civil Defense (Sivilforsvaret) crews to contain the blaze. It had burned out 15 square kilometres by Tuesday morning.

“Now we’re waiting for a fire helicopter from Værnes,” he told NRK just before sunrise. “The helicopter can’t go in before it lightens, but we’re hoping it can be ready in the area around eight o’clock.”

Ole Marius Haugen from the Nord-Trøndelag fire operations centre said conditions were too dangerous to send in crews. “There’s strong wind in the area, and it’s difficult to reach in rough terrain,” he said. “There’s also only one road in to the buildings in Hasvåg and Småværet. For crews’ safety we dare not head into the fire, so we’re dependent on help from a fire helicopter to get control over the fire.”

About 40 buildings were destroyed causing damage in the millions when fire raged through the historic town of Lærdal earlier this month. Three heritage listed wooden buildings and 17 homes were among those destroyed in Norway’s worst fire disaster since World War II.


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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.

3 thoughts on “Norway: rare winter brush fire burns numerous structures”

  1. JIm. This is not unusual in some parts of Norway. But most places are covered in a thick layer of snow now.

  2. The fire is now reported to have burned between 3000 and 4000 acres.
    Firefighters and personel from the Civil Defense, 110 people in total, is working on the fire.


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