Finland battles worst forest fire in 50 years

An aerial view shows a forest fire raging in Kalajoki, north-western Finland.
An aerial view shows a forest fire raging in Kalajoki, north-western Finland.PHOTO: AFP

HELSINKI (AFP) - Finland is battling its worst forest fire in half a century with some 300 hectares ravaged in five days in a northwestern valley during an exceptionally hot summer.

The fire began on Monday about 25km south of the small port town of Kalajoki in the Gulf of Bothnia.

"It's still burning, but it hasn't got bigger, it's limited to 300 hectares," Jarmo Haapanen, in charge of firefighting operations near Kalajoki, told AFP.

He said it would take a "minimum of one week, perhaps two or three weeks" for it to be put out completely.

"If climate change warms our summers like that, I'm sure it will happen more often," he warned.

Some 250 people, including army soldiers and four helicopters have been mobilised to douse the flames.

There have been no casualties so far as the area, about 500km north of the capital Helsinki, is sparsely populated.

Experts say this was the biggest fire in Finland since 1971 when a forest fire consumed 1,600 hectares.

Forest fires are rare in Nordic countries and are quickly brought under control.

However, a 2018 fire in Sweden spread to nearly 20,000 hectares.