Armed Forces in Sweden attempt to stop wildfire with a bomb

Sweden stop fire with bomb
Soldiers attaching the bomb to the aircraft. Photo: Jerry Lindbergh/Swedish Armed Forces

One of the numerous wildfires in Sweden happens to be in a military practice range that contains unexploded shells. Firefighters can’t enter the area so the Armed Forces decided that the best way to stop the fire was to drop bombs on it.

Below is an excerpt from an article at

At noon on Wednesday the Armed Forces dispatched two Jas 39 Gripen fighter jets to drop a bomb on the flames as a last resort, with the hope that the pressure from the blast would help contain the blaze.

“The oxygen from the fire can be removed with the help of a bomb and in this case it was possible to try it, because the fire is at a firing range,” said fire and rescue team leader Johan Szymanski in a statement.

“Our preliminary assessment right now is that this had a good effect.”

The bomb, model GBU-49 according to Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet, was dropped from 3,000 metres reaching speeds of 550 km/h before hitting its target with metre precision.

It managed to extinguish fires up to 100 metres from the target, according to initial reports.

If you look carefully at the video below you will see the bomb leaving the fighter jet. And then in the distance as the bomb hits the ground, a growing plume of dust or smoke.

The Swedes are not the first to come up with the idea of using bombs to stop a fire. In 2010 we wrote about Bazalt, a Russian manufacturer of  aircraft bombs, that designed one intended to put out a forest fire. It can detonate either on the ground or above it, dispensing a liquid over 1,000 square meters, about 1/4 acre. Bazalt says one aircraft could carry up to 100 of these fire extinguisher bombs.

And in 2014 an Australian researcher experimented with explosives in New Mexico, hoping the result would be a directional blast that could put out a forest fire, or at least a portion of one.

Suppressing wildfires with explosives?

An Australian researcher is experimenting with explosives in New Mexico, hoping the result will be a directional blast that will put out a forest fire, or at least a portion of one.

So far they have wrapped a cardboard tube with detonation cord (det cord) which shoots out a blast, easily blowing the flame off a propane burner. This is similar to blowing out a candle, or placing explosives next to a burning oil well which is being deluged with several master streams of water. As long as there is not enough heat retained, combustion will cease. It remains to be seen if blowing the flames off burning heavy or deep-seated fuels in a forest will end the combustion process. Maybe it will work on grass fires. But how far away from the blast will firefighters have to be? And will the explosion itself start more fires?

Below is the description of the video:

UNSW researchers are a step closer to proving whether explosives — rather than water — can be used to extinguish an out-of-control bushfire.

Dr Graham Doig, of the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, is conducting the research, which extends a long-standing technique used to put out oil well fires.

The process is not dissimilar to blowing out a candle: it relies on a blast of air to knock a flame off its fuel source.

Doig travelled to the Energetic Materials Research Testing Center — a high-explosives and bomb test site in a remote part of New Mexico — in January this year to scale up tests he originally conducted at UNSW’s heat transfer and aerodynamics laboratory.

The New Mexico tests used a four-metre steel blast tube — which contained a cardboard cylinder wrapped in detonation cord — to produce a concentrated shockwave and rush of air. This was directed at a metre-high flame fuelled by a propane burner.

The sudden change in pressure across the shockwave, and then the impulse of the airflow behind it pushed the flame straight off the fuel source. As soon as the flame doesn’t have access to fuel anymore, it stops burning.

Doig hopes the concept can now be scaled up to fight out-of-control forest and bushfires burning in remote parts of the world.

For decades specially-trained wildland firefighters have used det cord wrapped in water to create fireline out ahead of a fire. The purpose of the water is to reduce the chance that the explosion will start new fires. If you wrap the det cord around a tree or a log several times it can fell the tree or make a fireline through a log.

This reminds us of a device we labeled a “lame-ass idea” in 2010– a fire extinguisher bomb. This is an actual bomb dropped from an aircraft that when detonated disperses water, theoretically putting out a vegetation fire. Hard hats will probably be required when firefighters are in the area. 😉

In an attempt to remain open minded about the effectiveness of using a directional blast to suppress a forest fire, we will hold off, for now, in describing it as a lame-ass idea.


Thanks and a hat tip go out to Jim.

Fire extinguisher bomb

fire extinguisher bomb

We have a new candidate for our collection of Lame-Ass Ideas for suppressing wildfires. Bazalt, a Russian company that makes aircraft bombs, mortar bombs, and grenade launchers, has designed a bomb intended to put out a forest fire. It can detonate either on the ground or above it, and dispenses a liquid over 1,000 square meters, about 1/4 acre. Bazalt says one aircraft could carry up to 100 of these fire extinguisher bombs. A video HERE shows the contraption in action.

And we thought the hazards to a firefighter from the aerially delivered 2,000-pound containers of water were pretty significant. I would not want to be fighting a fire that is supported by aircraft dropping these bombs, but that’s just me. But there might be an application for them at haz-mat sites or burning nuclear power plants that are inaccessible to firefighters.

fire extinguisher bomb