A heat wave across much of Europe has been exacerbating wildfires in multiple nations in recent weeks, most notably, in Greece and Sweden. Efforts to put down these fires have quickly developed into an international endeavor, with equipment and firefighting personnel from a laundry list of nations heading into the fray.
In Sweden, where more than 50 wildfires continue to rage across the nation, one has drawn the particular concern of officials — burning in the forest in Älvdalen (central Sweden) this growing wildfire has been consuming terrain that’s difficult to access, but now, it’s rapidly approaching a disused military firing range littered with unexploded ordnance that would make any attempt to combat the fires from the ground too dangerous to consider.
Of course, there’s a variety of firefighting tactics that can be employed from the sky — here in the United States, for instance, a variety of tanker aircraft are used by the U.S. Forest Service to drop hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water or fire retardant spray over raging forest fires. Sweden, however, had a different idea: they’re putting the fire out by beating it into submission. Sweden just began testing the use of laser-guided bombs, dropped from fighter jets, as a means to quell the spread of the flames.
Okay, so technically, they’re not really beating the fires with the bombs — the real intent is to suffocate them. When the bombs detonate near raging fires, they burn an immense amount of oxygen in the area, effectively removing one of the primary fuel sources a wildfire needs to keep burning. In effect, these 500-pound bombs have a similar effect on the wildfires as you have on a candle when you blow it out. The immense force produced by the explosion doesn’t just eliminate nearby oxygen, but it also literally blows the flames off of their fuel sources (often wood or other organic matter in the forest), preventing reignition when air rapidly refills the void left by the detonation.