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Describing "raking" as misunderstanding

Finns pleased with Trump's praise for forest fire control

19 Nov 2018, 12:25 ( 6 Months ago)

DF-Xinhua Report
Debris are seen after the wildfire in Paradise, California, the United States, on Nov. 13, 2018. Rescuers continue to search for missing residents in and around the town of Paradise, local authorities said Tuesday. Photo Xinhua.

Finns awoke Sunday to the somewhat surprising news that U.S. President Donald Trump praised Finland for raking forests. It was a probable misunderstanding, however, local media said.

Trump gave his statement in California after visiting forest fire damaged areas including Thousand Oaks, hinting such action could help avoid major fires.

Finns seldom rake forests but only their woodyards, Finnish media explained, attributing the success to observation systems and easy access to wild forests.

As Trump said Finns "keep raking and cleaning their forests," social media in Finland reacted with humor. People post pictures of themselves posing in forests. Media even found pictures showing people in the 19th century and WWII soldiers raking leaves.

Combating forest fires came up in a conversation between Trump and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö in Paris during the First World War centennial a week ago. The Finnish presidential office said Sunday that "raking" was not mentioned.

Niinistö indeed explained Finnish forest fire observation and alert system. There are regular surveillance flights during dry seasons. Fire control is also one theme during Finland's chairmanship in the Arctic Council.

Finland is unique in its ability to stop forest fires, said rescue and fire officials when asked by media on Sunday. Officials mentioned a Finnish system of forest roads that facilitate entry for fire trucks into distant areas with no villages nearby and, therefore, contain fires.

No major forest fires broke out in Finland for decades, Janne Koivukoski, director for preparedness at the Ministry of the Interior, told national broadcaster Yle. Usually Finland witnesses some 2,000 small forest fires annually, but in 2018 the number reached 3,300 due to dry weather.

About 40,000 low-quality roads in uninhabited wildernesses and forests form a network. They are not always passable in winters, but connect each other in summertime.

Though officially built to facilitate timber transport, roads are mostly used for excursions, berry picking and fire safety. Finland also has a network of volunteer fire brigades on standby with their own equipment.