Sweden struggling to contain dozens of drought-fueled wildfires

Firefighters use helicopters to fight wildfires outside Hammarstrand in Sweden on July 16.

(CNN)Sweden is battling dozens of severe, drought-fueled forest fires raging across the country, despite the loan of firefighting planes and helicopters from its European neighbors.

Thomas Aronsson, chief of operations for SITS, a specialist firefighting service based in Sweden, said Wednesday that fire service agencies were fighting around 80 fires across the country and lacked the necessary equipment.
"We need tankers, we need helicopters -- we don't have enough supplies," he told CNN. "There are 80 fires right now in Sweden, and there is no helicopter company or pilot in all of Sweden that's not involved in fighting these fires."
    "A lot of firefighters who currently have vacation have volunteered to come out and fight these fires," Aronsson said. "It's a little too early to say how it's going to go. With such high temperatures, these are tough conditions to be fighting a fire."
    Fire burns in Karbole, Sweden, on July 15.
    On Tuesday the European Commission responded to Sweden's call for help, sending two firefighting planes from Italy to help tackle the blazes.
    The planes, both Canadair CL-415 models capable of carrying 6,000 liters of water, are using as their base of operations Örebro, a city in southern Sweden, and have been deployed in affected regions further north, according to the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB).
    It is the second time this summer that Sweden has requested support to tackle large fires, according to the European Commission.
    Norway also responded to the call with a loan of helicopters, according to the MSB.
    NASA MODIS satellite image shows multiple large fires (in red) burning in central and southern Sweden on Tuesday, spreading smoke for hundreds of kilometers across Scandinavia.

    'Exceptionally dry and hot' weather

    Sweden finds itself in a dire situation thanks to an extended period of above-average temperatures and very little rainfall. After a wet autumn and winter, things changed dramatically in May, mirroring conditions across much of Europe.
    "It has been exceptionally dry and hot during May, June and early July," said the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute in a warning released this week that highlighted a risk of water shortages for nearly all of central and southern Sweden.
    The month of May was considered exceptional, as Stockholm averaged 16.1 degrees Celsius for the month, almost six degrees higher than usual.
    "That we should experience such a high average temperature in Stockholm in May -- 16.1 degrees -- is an occurrence which, statistically speaking, happens just three times in a million years," according to Gustav Strandberg, a climate researcher at SMHI's Rossby Centre.
    Firefighters use helicopters to fight wildfires in the southern part of Norway in Sordal on July 14.