The battle against wildfires in Sweden is expected to continue for weeks, but that shouldn't deter tourists. Many lakes, forests and nature reserves lie outside the danger zones. What holidaymakers should know:
Red wooden houses, broad lakes and dark green forests – the Dalarna region in central Sweden on the border to Norway looks like the high-gloss pictures in travel catalogs. In addition to Swedish and Norwegian tourists, many Germans spend their vacations here. They travel mainly in camper vans, because wild camping is allowed in Sweden.
Once again, many tourists have come to Dalarna this summer to camp, hike and swim. But in Särna, a village in the municipality of Älvdalen, caravans belonging to emergency crews are parked right next to those of vacationers. Helicopters circle above the forests, occasionally hovering over the lakes to refill their water tanks. On the main street firefighting and military vehicles are lined up right next to the playground.
The persistent heat and drought in northern Europe have sparked dozens of wildfires in Sweden. Dalarna is among the regions that have been affected. Experts expect fire fighting on a large scale to continue and areas to remain closed off for weeks.
But the women who work at Älvdalen's tourist information office say that shouldn't deter tourists. They say holidaying in their country is safe: “There are a total of three large wildfire areas in Sweden. They are in Dalarna, Jämtland and Gävleborg. The fires in the Dalarna region are confined to four smaller areas, which are closed off so extensively that there's no way vacationers can run into danger,” says Sonja Palm, a tourist office employee. She says the fires are in areas that tourists rarely visit. There are no national parks in Dalarna's danger zones.
“If you have already booked a holiday within an evacuated area, you will be informed in plenty of time by your host or tour operator. An individual solution will then be found. A different accommodation can be booked, for instance,” her colleague Cilla Johansson adds. All holiday-makers can get information at any time from local tourism offices, camp site operators or hotel owners, and, of course, from national agencies.
The Swedish crisis management authority has set up an English language website (see link below) that makes relevant information available and updates it constantly. Here you'll also find the telephone number 113 13, which has been specially set up to ensure that the emergency number 112 is no longer used for information and remains free for emergency calls. “It's also worth taking a look at the SOS Alarm portal, which provides up-to-date maps that show the exact locations of the fires,” recommends Sonja Palm.
Stefan Larsson from Älvdalens Camping runs the fishing center that belongs to the camp site. Many holiday-makers who come here in caravans or rent one of the small red holiday lodges usually hire fishing tackle from him, so they can enjoy the complete back-to-nature experience, including catching their own supper.
This year, however, Larsson explicitly warns people not to fish in open waters. “Water levels in many rivers and lakes are currently extremely low. In addition the heat robs the water of oxygen. So I advise people to leave the fish alone and abstain from angling. Ultimately we want to make sure we still have fish in our waters next year.” To give anglers some satisfaction anyway, Larsson recommends they fish in an artificial pond this year.
Another rule should be strictly observed: the fire ban. Stefan Larsson explains that the authorities' official regulations for every area in the country are individually issued and change according to risk. That means that in many places there is no strict fire ban, but only restrictions such as, for example, “barbecues allowed, but no open fires.” Larsson has issued an absolute ban for his camp site, in order to avoid any misunderstandings. “Unfortunately, some guests have a tendency to flout the fire ban, so now we have posted prohibition signs in several languages. The risk is simply too great that something will catch fire.”
Älvdalen Tourist Information also recommends following the local fire guidelines or doing without fire completely, and always taking along a fire extinguisher on a camping holiday. It is also preferable to pitch tents and park camper vans on paved or stony surfaces, not in meadows or woodlands, to avoid any risk.
If you follow these rules and recommendations, you will be able to enjoy your Swedish holiday this year. Älvdalen Tourist Information is glad that to date it has not observed a reduction in visitor numbers and that many tourists are already using the options provided to inform themselves, so it doesn't fear financial losses. It remains to be seen what lasting damage to nature the drought and wildfires will have done, but time and again it people here emphasize that anyone planning a trip to Sweden is always welcome.