Iceland Declares First-Ever Alert Phase Due to Wildfire Risk

forest brush fire

Icelandic authorities have declared an alert phase in the southwest quadrant of the country due to the risk of wildfires. The handling of open fire has been prohibited. It is the first time such a high level of risk has been declared in the country due to wildfires. The alert phase applies to all of South and West Iceland, from Breiðafjörður to Eyjafjöll, where weather has been dry for weeks and little precipitation is in the forecast. Wildfires have broken out in the region daily this week.

“A civil protection alert phase is put in place if people’s health and safety are at risk, environment or population is threatened by nature or people, however not serious to the point of an emergency situation,” a notice from the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management states. “An alert phase is a part of the procedures in the civil protection structure to ensure formal communication and information between responders and the public.”

Read More: Brush Fires Break Out in Bone Dry Capital Area

Handling of Open Fire Prohibited

Along with the alert phase, fire department chiefs in the region have prohibited the handling of open fire as even a small spark carries great risk of wildfire when vegetation is dry. The prohibition has already taken effect and breaches are subject to fines. The public (particularly owners of summer houses in the affected region) are encouraged to:

  • Not light fires inside or outside (including fireplaces, grills, bonfires, fireworks, etc.)
  • Not use disposable or ordinary barbecues
  • Check exits by summer houses
  • Review fire protection (fire extinguishers, smoke detectors) and make an escape plan
  • Not use tools that become very hot or cause sparks
  • Remove flammable material near buildings (check the location of gas containers)
  • Wet the vegetation around buildings where it is dry

Anyone who notices a wildfire must call the emergency line 112 immediately.

“Uncertainty Phase” Declared Due to Risk of Forest Fires in South and West Iceland

heiðmörk fire 4 may 2021

The National Police Commissioner has declared an “uncertainty phase” due to risk of forest fires in South Iceland, West Iceland, and the Reykjavík capital area. The area stretches between Eyjafjöll to the south side of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. A forest fire burned two square kilometres in Heiðmörk forest on May 4.

A notice from the Civil Protection Department stated that the three regions have been unseasonably dry in recent weeks and there is little precipitation in the forecast for the coming days, increasing the risk of brush or forest fires. At this stage, the department and stakeholders will begin the collaboration and coordination to increase monitoring, assessment, and research related to the risk.

The public is asked to be careful with open fires in the regions and other places where vegetation is dry. “It doesn’t take a lot of sparks to lead to a big blaze,” the notice states. Anyone who spots a brush or forest fire should call emergency line 112.