Facing the inferno

Facing the inferno

The story of how Scania Crewcab transported brave firefighters to save Sweden’s forests.

The summer of 2018 was a time when many fire trucks were put to a severe test. The unusually hot weather in Europe caused a severe drought and in July some 50 forest fires were raging all around Sweden.

At this time, four fires were said to be especially difficult to deal with. In fact, they were nearly impossible to put out during the extremely hot weather conditions. These forest fires in the region of Dalarna demanded high attention, not only from the local fire brigade but from all over the country. Scania’s fire trucks – the crewcabs – played an important role at the scene.

The hot and dry summer in Sweden made forest fires nearly impossible to contain.

Help from all over the country

Markus Erlandsson is Incident Commander and Operations Manager at the Södertörn Fire Protection Association in Södertälje, a fire department whose fleet mainly consists of Scania fire trucks. Erlandsson was asked to assist at several forest fires, among them one in Älvdalen in the northern part of Dalarna.

“We always need to be prepared at our own fire department, but we are more than willing to help out in other cities when our aid is needed,” he says. That’s the case for every municipality. At this stage of the fires, the resources of the fire brigades in Mora and Älvdalen were long gone. The extent of the blazes called for an extraordinary effort.

Markus Erlandsson, Incident Commander and Operations Manager at the Södertörn Fire Protection Association.

As Incident Commander and Operations Manager, Erlandsson is stationed with the control centre behind the units at the front. The control centre gives the firefighters in the forest directions and decides on what actions to take, depending on wind direction. The part Erlandsson is playing is dependent on how the fire develops. “Sometimes the need for analytics are great, other times you need a logistics person,” he explains.

Different tasks at different fires

The tasks of the fire trucks differ according to the extent of the fire. A small fire on the ground, maybe caused by a cigarette butt and covering 10 square metres is easily extinguished by the fire truck.  At a large forest fire the size of a football field covering up to several thousand acres, the fire trucks play a different role.

“We trust the fire truck to take us where we want to go, which is as close to the fire as possible. But often we need to park it and use other vehicles,” says Erlandsson.

Easy access to the required equipment is key when fighting fires.

Forest fires of this summer’s magnitude demand four-wheel drive and tracked vehicles that are suitable for driving in difficult terrain. The fire trucks on the other hand serve as transport to get the firefighters in place as soon as possible. The tanker truck runs like a shuttle service.

“Normally we’ll take water from lakes using pumps. Where there’s navigable roads, tanker trucks are also a good option,” says Erlandsson.

But in the event of a forest fire close to Stockholm, the conditions are totally different. Here, you can use a road network that doesn’t compare with the much more challenging routes that there are in the more rural areas.

Not quite enough

The forest fire in Älvdalen was thirty kilometres in circumference. At times, the firefighters were forced to carry many kilometres of fire hose through the forest. The equipment of the fire truck consists of a couple of hundred meters of fire hose. The rest are kept in trailers, owned by each fire department.

“For those big fires that I’ve been working at, these are just not enough,” says Erlandsson. Instead, the firefighters used equipment supplied by Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, that is stored in containers around the country. It is a must to combine the fire-fighting on the ground with airborne water bombing so as to maintain control of the forest fires.

Could drones help firefighters in their job?

To get an overview at such a massive area is both time consuming and at times even impossible unless you have access to a helicopter. Erlandsson says that it would be a dream to have a drone attached to each fire truck. If so, the firefighters would be able to perceive the extent of the fire much more quickly.

But at least Erlandsson and his team have some reliable equipment to help them in their brave mission. And when it comes to the Scania trucks, he confirms that smaller fires are when they are at its best. “Then we can use their full potential and capacity,” he says.