France, Italy help battle Sweden's massive forest fire

A helicopter drops its load of water on the wildfire front just outside the evacuated village of Gammelby near Sala, in central Sweden, on August 4, 2014. The fire, which has destroyed 100 sq km of forest, is the worst seen in Scandinavia i
A helicopter drops its load of water on the wildfire front just outside the evacuated village of Gammelby near Sala, in central Sweden, on August 4, 2014. The fire, which has destroyed 100 sq km of forest, is the worst seen in Scandinavia in 40 years, officials said. -- PHOTO: AFP

STOCKHOLM (AFP) - French and Italian air tanker fire planes flew in to fight a huge forest fire raging in central Sweden on Wednesday, the worst seen in Scandinavia in 40 years, officials said.

Two French Canadair CL-415s, which flew from their base near Marseille in the south of France, joined two similar Italian aircraft water-bombing the wildfire, which has been raging since July 31 near Sala, Swedish media reported.

Sweden does not have any air tankers of its own and has been using helicopters to help fire crews grapple with the blaze, which has already destroyed 100 sq km of forestry left tinder-dry after an unusually hot and dry summer.

The fire claimed its first victim on Tuesday when a 30-year-old man was found dead on a stretch of road that had been swept by flames.

The Swedish Europe Minister Birgitta Ohlsson hailed France and Italy for showing "European solidarity in action".