Regulation Changes Needed to Ensure Safe Housing

Slökkvilið höfuðborgarsvæðisins bs / Facebook. Fire in Hafnarfjörður, August 20, 2023

Iceland’s housing problem gets worse with each passing year, President of The Icelandic Confederation of Labour (ASÍ) Finnbjörn A. Hermannsson stated in a radio interview yesterday morning. One died and two others were hospitalised in a fire earlier this week that broke out in an industrial building that was being used for housing. Thousands are likely living in buildings that are not classified as residential in Iceland and Finnbjörn says such residences should be legalised to ease safety monitoring.

Housing a key issue in upcoming wage negotiations

Finnbjörn says there simply isn’t enough housing to meet demand in Iceland. “We can’t even keep up with normal [population] growth, let alone when we get such a huge wave of working people that the society needs,” he stated. “Everyone needs somewhere to live and so they go to these industrial buildings that are not intended for residence.”

Following a fatal house fire in June 2020, Icelandic authorities launched an investigation into housing conditions in Iceland that found that between 5,000 and 7,000 people were living in properties classified as commercial or industrial buildings in Iceland in 2021. Finnbjörn says that housing will be at the forefront in the coming collective agreement negotiations. He expressed his faith that the situation would improve.

New legislation on the way

Living in buildings that are not classified as residential buildings is currently illegal in Iceland. It has proven difficult for fire departments to monitor such buildings due to privacy laws. However, the Minister of Infrastructure plans to introduce a bill next month that would allow for temporary residence permits in buildings that are not classified as residential, provided they fulfil safety requirements. The legislation would also authorise fire departments to monitor such buildings more closely.

Significant Damage After Residential Fire

Significant damage occurred after a fire broke out in a multi-family house in Akureyri, RÚV reports.

A fire began in a multi-family house in Akureyri early this morning, and although the fire brigade quickly managed to control the blaze, significant damage was done to the building.

RÚV reports that the fire has since been successfully extinguished.

Gunnar Rúnar Ólafsson, the fire chief in Akureyri, stated that a significant amount of smoke was coming from the house when the fire brigade arrived. No residents were inside the apartment that caught fire, and they managed to extinguish the fire quickly, in about half an hour.

The building in question is home to four apartments.

Gunnar stated that there is no further information about the source of the fire.

 

Large Fire in Reykjanesbær

fire in reykjanesbær

A fire broke out in an industrial building at the corner of Víkurbraut and Hrannargata in Reykjanesbær today.

Vísir states that all Reykjanes Fire Department vehicles have arrived at the scene, and firefighting efforts are underway.

The fire is in a building located at Víkurbraut 4, an industrial building from 1973. The building is not in current use, but was used previously as a storage site for Icelandair.

The extent of damage to the building is uncertain at this time. Jón Guðlaugsson, the chief firefighter at the South Peninsula Fire Department, stated to Vísir that the fire is confined to this building, and no one is inside.

“It is progressing slowly and steadily. We have been able to make significant progress in controlling it,” stated Jón. “The roof is starting to collapse in parts… Most of the supports are giving way.”

No further information is available at this time.

Tourists Escape from Burning Bus Near Lake Þingvallavatn

Þingvallavatn

A bus carrying 25 tourists caught fire near Lake Þingvallavatn yesterday. A firefighter told RÚV that the bus was almost completely burned by the time the fire brigade arrived.

Engulfed in flames almost immediately

Shortly before noon yesterday, a bus carrying 25 tourists came to a halt near Lake Þingvallavatn in Southwest Iceland. According to eyewitnesses, the bus burst into flames shortly afterwards. All of the passengers managed to exit the bus safely.

Eyjólfur Óli Jónsson, duty officer with the Árnes County Fire Department, told RÚV that the bus was almost completely burned by the time the fire brigade arrived. The fire department’s initial efforts were focused on extinguishing the surrounding vegetation. “It was almost impossible to put out the fire with water without polluting the soil near the highway. So as we waited for a tanker to arrive, we concentrated on the fire that had spread to the nearby vegetation. When the tanker arrived, we used foam to smother the fire on the bus.”

According to Eyjólfur, the passengers, despite being alarmed, displayed remarkable composure in the face of the incident. “When I encountered them earlier, they appeared remarkably composed. It seems they had evacuated before the fire intensified.”

Georg Aspelund Þorkelsson was sitting in a nearby car when the fire erupted. He told RÚV that it was thanks to the bus driver’s quick wits that things didn’t turn out worse.

“The passengers exited the bus and grabbed their luggage; it all happened very quickly. The driver parked in the middle of the road, which I believe was the right decision, to prevent the fire from spreading to the nearby vegetation. The bus was then engulfed in flames in a fairly short time.”

The cause of the fire remains unknown.

Two Hospitalised After Gas-Station Explosion in Reykjavík

Gas station

Capital region firefighters were dispatched following an explosion at an Olís gas station in Reykjavík shortly before 2:30 PM today. Two individuals were transported to the emergency room.

Fire department received numerous calls

At just before 2.30 PM today, the capital region fire brigade was dispatched after receiving numerous calls concerning an explosion at the Olís gas station in Álfheimar, Reykjavík.

Duty officer Sveinbjörn Berentsson told Vísir that it was clear that “considerable force” had been involved in the explosion, given the number of phone calls. The explosion occurred at a methane pump, and firefighters began by blocking the flow of gas from the pump, as well as attending to two people injured in the explosions. They were taken to the emergency room.

Sveinbjörn was unable to comment on the extent of their injuries. Two nearby cars were damaged by the blast, and the windshield of a third vehicle was broken.

The area has been cordoned off, and the scene is being investigated by the police and the labour inspectorate. Sveinbjörn Berentsson told Vísir that such explosions are “uncommon,” adding that he had never witnessed anything like this himself.

Explosion in Álfheimar
Golli

Wet and Cold: Children Rescued from Elliðavatn Lake

elliðavatn reykjavík

Three boys between ages 10 and 11 were rescued by the capital area fire department yesterday when they fell through the ice on Elliðavatn, a popular lake near Reykjavík.

The boys had walked out onto the ice, which then broke under them. However, the fire department was able to respond in time, and the boys made it back onto dry land safely, albeit rather cold and wet.

The incident was reported to the fire department around 17:00 this last Monday. By the time the fire department had arrived, the boys had managed to make it to a small island in the lake, from which they were then rescued by the responders.

Sveinbjörn Berentsson, station officer at the capital area fire department, stressed in a statement to Vísir that going out on the ice is always dangerous, and simply staying off the ice is the safest thing to do.

It has also been a warm winter until a recent drop in temperature, meaning that the lake ice had only a short time to form.

The local school the boys attend has also sent advisory notices to parents, warning them of the danger. Teachers are also reported as having discussed the dangerous with their students following the incident.

 

 

Pornographic Film Created in Ambulance Under Investigation

iceland ambulance

A pornographic film is under investigation for having been recorded in an Icelandic ambulance, reports Fréttablaðið.

Authorities state they are taking the matter seriously and that an investigation into the matter has begun.

According to Fréttablaðið, the capital region fire department was alerted to the existence of the video via a confidential tip.

The incident is significant as the sale and production of pornography are illegal in Iceland. The incident also raises concerns over security, and how the individuals responsible for the pornographic film were able to gain access to the ambulance in question.

The film in question features a woman posing as a patient and a man as an emergency medical technician.

Sources report that after an internal investigation, it was concluded that although the ambulance in question is indeed Icelandic, it was not operated by the capital area fire department.

Authorities have concluded that the ambulance is either from another municipality, or else an older vehicle that has been sold to a private individual.

The incident was an occasion for some moral outrage, with some condemning the use of a vehicle used to treat the sick and dying for such purposes.

Despite the outrage, however, there is no indication that the ambulance is currently in service.

Spokesperson for the capital area fire department, Ásdís Gíslason, stated: “The issue is being taken very seriously, and we regret having been involved in this matter.”

Update: Video Likely Filmed at Skógarhlið in Reykjavík

According to the latest information, the ambulance in question was located in the fire department facility in Skógarhlið.

Since the matter has been reported in the media, authorities have received numerous tips. Now, they state that several clues from the video indicate that it was indeed recorded at a fire department building in Reykjavík.

Birgir Finnsson, assistant fire chief in the capital area, stated that there are no security cameras at Skógarhlið, as it had not previously been considered necessary.

When asked if other individuals had access to the facility, he stated that although “the building is of course just for use by the fire department, there is something going on that we’re looking into.”

Herring Era Museum Floods: ‘The exhibition area was basically floating’

The award-winning Herring Era Museum in Siglufjörður in North Iceland flooded on Friday, RÚV reports. Staff were met by 40 cm [15.7 in] of water when they arrived, and two days of heavy rain have only exacerbated the situation.

The Herring Era Museum – Síldarminjasafn Íslands, FB

Wellsprings located in the embankment behind the museum tend to collect water underground, and these simply overflowed after days of heavy rainfall. The runoff had no good drainage channel, something that fire chief Jóhann K. Jóhannsson says will need to be addressed in the future.

“[The water] rose really quickly,” said curator Aníta Elefsen. “Around noon, it had reached 77 cm [30 in] and the exhibition area was basically floating, I think that’s the only word for it.”

The Herring Era Museum – Síldarminjasafn Íslands, FB

Artifacts and cultural relics at risk

Located in a former salting station, boathouse, and herring factory in the centre of Siglufjörður, the Herring Era Museum offers an extensive, immersive glimpse into a fascinating period of Icelandic history. The museum has received numerous awards for its innovative curation and live exhibitions. It is, in fact, the only museum in the country to have won the European Museum Award.

The Herring Era Museum – Síldarminjasafn Íslands, FB

Unfortunately, it’s the main exhibition space that has flooded, and although firefighters have been running numerous pumps since Friday, they were still draining water away eight hours later, on Saturday morning. “I think we’re using every available pump in the municipality,” said Aníta.

She says it’s difficult to determine the extent of the damage to the collection at this time but hopes that staff will be able to start doing so early next week.

“Obviously, this is a great deal of water and it’s the exhibition space we’re talking about. There are artifacts and cultural relics. It’s hard to say right now—I think we’ll just have to wait until everything dries and we can walk through here […] without getting our feet wet to assess the situation.”

Three Cars Destroyed in Breiðholt Fire

fire firefighters Reykjavík

A fire broke out in an apartment building’s garage in Breiðholt yesterday, Vísir reports. All available firefighters were called to the spot, but at least three of the 26 cars in the garage were destroyed.

Divisional manager with the capital area fire department Vernharð Guðnason stated in a radio interview today that several cars were in the storage facility and that there was plenty of damage. “When we arrived, the fire was already blazing and a few cars were burning. It generated a lot of heat and smoke, which caused great damage to the other cars.”

All available firefighters in the capital area were called to the scene. Vernharð stated: “when cars burn, there’s so much energy released. The heat was immense and the ceilings were relatively low. There’s nowhere for the heat to escape and a lot of black smoke becomes dangerous for our people due to the heat and toxic chemicals in the smoke.”

Luckily, no one was harmed and there was no danger that the fire would spread to the surrounding buildings. “The garage design makes sure that there’s no entry from the space to stairwells. The only exit leads outside so it went as well as possible, with no smoke entering the surrounding buildings.

The police is now investigating the scene to discover the cause of the fire.

Read More: A String of House-Fire Deaths Has Sparked Calls For Fire Safety Reforms

Busy weekend for Reykjavík Police and Ambulances

ambulances

Public drunkenness and fights in the city centre kept the capital area police force and the Fire Department’s medical transport staff busy this weekend. On Sunday morning, the daily police log wasn’t sent out until the afternoon as there was no time to write one until then. The log states that several announcements of public drunkenness, noise complaints, and fights meant that all the police’s cells were full. They also noted several cases of people driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances and the Fire Department handled more than 250 medical transports. 

The police log states, among other events, that they were notified of two group fights, in one case, where individuals were armed with a knife and a hammer. They also received notice that a fight had broken out in a moving vehicle. A city-centre shop was broken into as well as an unnamed company. Several cars were broken into where windows were smashed and things were stolen. 

On Saturday night, they received notice that a person under the influence was threatening passers-by. They resisted arrest and kicked a police officer. An upset person was walking through the city centre during the night carrying a golf club and tried to flee from the police. By the morning, the police were notified that a drunk person was jumping in front of cars in the city centre, reportedly looking for a ride home. The police found him a taxi. 

The capital area fire department was also quite busy as there were many people in the city centre and a lot of drunkenness and altercations. “The city centre kept us extremely busy, long into the night,” Stefán Kristinsson with the capital area Fire Department told RÚV. “We had a long night with 50-60 medical transportations, which is very much for a night shift.” Stefán added that at no point was the strain on the medical transport staff such that any danger was caused, although they answered over 250 medical transport calls over the weekend. “In addition to the city centre, there has also been some COVID-related transportation.”

One ambulance is out of commission after a bottle was thrown at the car’s rear window. The missile came from a crowd of people and the thrower is unknown.