General fire risk and the special risk related to cold climate cellulosic drying processes are outlined. Four recent subzero temperatures fires are studied with respect to health impacts: a wooden village fire, a single wood structure fire, a wildland urban interface (WUI) fire and a huge wildland fire. The health impacts range from stress related to loss of jobs, psychological effects of lost possessions, exposure to smoke and heat as well as immediate, or delayed, loss of lives. These four fires resulted in 32 fatalities, 385 persons hospitalized for shorter or longer periods, 104 structures lost and 1015 km2
of wildland burned north of, and just south of, the Arctic Circle. It is shown that the combination of subzero temperature dry weather, strong winds, changing agricultural activities and declining snowpack may lead to previously anticipated threats to people and the environment. There are reasons to believe that these fires are a result of the ongoing climate changes. Risk impacts are discussed. Rural districts and/or vulnerable populations seem to be most affected. Training methods to identify and better monitor critical fire risk parameters are suggested to mitigate the health impacts of a possibly increasing number of such fires.
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