Government newsletter: Forest fire in Västmanland
08 August 2014

Forest fire in Västmanland

Skogsbranden i Västmanland. Photo: Jocke Berglund/TT

The fire in Västmanland is still burning. The continued focus is on fighting the fire and protecting lives and property. But when the immediate crisis is over, it is important that we begin the work of seeing what lessons can be learned. This is important in any crisis, and never more so than in events of this exceptional nature. The Government now intends to appoint an inquiry to this effect.

The fire is affecting a large number of people, and a large number of professionals and volunteers are involved the efforts to extinguish it. The Government has been monitoring events from the outset and receives continuous reports, including via contacts between the responsible authorities and the Government Offices. Minister for Defence Karin Enström and Minister for Rural Affairs Eskil Erlandsson were at the scene on Tuesday, and on Thursday Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt visited the affected areas to gain a better picture of the situation.

Inquiry

The issues to be addressed in the inquiry include:

  • Coordination and leadership of operations: locally, regionally and nationally.
  • The conditions for employing firefighting aircraft, e.g. the possible need for joint exercises or increased availability.
  • It should be possible to utilise all of society's resources in times of major crisis. There should be a review of how this works in practice.
  • The conditions for improving communication with and information to the public during crises. This includes information in the event of evacuation.
  • Continued surveying and coordination of efforts among different authorities to tackle exceptional events.
  • Emergency preparedness within the agriculture and forestry sectors.

In addition, the Government intends to task the Swedish Transport Administration with analysing the damage done to local infrastructure.

The fire will also have an economic impact. The Ministry of Finance has begun the work of surveying this.

Enhanced emergency preparedness since 2006

Since 2006 the Government has strengthened Sweden's emergency preparedness via the following measures:

  • The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, which is responsible for pursuing and providing support on accident protection, emergency preparedness and civil defence, was established in 2009.
  • The Crisis Management Coordination Secretariat was established at the Government Offices in 2008.
  • Crisis communication and emergency information have been enhanced (alert functions, emergency information, the 11313 information telephone number, the use of the Rakel radio communication system).
  • Capabilities to provide and receive international support in the event of disasters and crises are being developed (the Haga Declaration in the Nordic region, civil protection legislation in the EU, international disaster response operations).
  • Enhanced capabilities in the area of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive threats (CBRNE)/hazardous substances (enhanced cooperation in the event of accidents involving hazardous substances).
  • Continued adaptation of fire protection work.

Emergency preparedness in Sweden

In Sweden, emergency preparedness in society is based on the 'principle of responsibility'. This means that the organisation (e.g. municipality, county council or government agency) that is responsible for a given activity under normal circumstances is also responsible for that area in a crisis situation.

Consequently, the responsible agencies and operations must be organised so as to be prepared to deal with a crisis. Under the principle of responsibility, each individual actor is also responsible for cooperating and working with the others to tackle and resolve the crisis.

The Government's role is to monitor developments, ensure that the responsible agencies have the necessary resources and take any necessary government decisions.