Sweden Calls for Logging Halt After Fires Devastate Forest Lands

(Bloomberg) -- Swedish authorities are urging timber companies to stop logging after wildfires swept through large parts of forested land.

"Due to the extreme drought and the extremely high fire risk” in large parts of the country, “the Swedish Forest Agency recommends that no forestry work is done in those areas," it said in a statement. The recommendation applies to those parts of the country where the risk of blazes is high or extreme, it said.

According to the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, the areas most at risk are the entire southern half of Sweden as well as parts of the north. That follows a lack of rainfall and exceptionally high temperatures throughout the summer, fueling dozens of fires that have so far destroyed more than $100 million worth of woodland. On Thursday morning, 21 fires were still raging across Sweden.

The Swedish Forest Agency is warning companies that it could be a criminal act to ignore safety concerns and is calling on the public to alert police if they see forestry work that could pose a threat. The risk arises if machinery creates sparks while in use, potentially igniting fires.

"It’s like driving around with an ignition steel of 20 tons," the agency said. "If sparks are created, it doesn’t take much for a fire to start and spread rapidly."

Heatwave Fires Pose New Weather Risk for Nordic Forest Industry

The Nordic forestry industry is already under pressure as fires limit supply. Sveaskog, Sweden’s biggest forest owner, cited production disruptions in June and July that will make it harder to deliver some products in parts of the country through August.

Stora Enso Oyj of Finland said in its second-quarter report last week that "the Nordic wood supply situation is expected to continue tight, due to the risk of forest fires affecting harvesting conditions." Its shares sank 14 percent when it reported quarterly results as investors digested the news.

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