Swedish School Fires

On the Danish blogs I follow, I’ve read numerous times for years the rather amazing statistic that in Sweden, there is at least one school fire every day. In a conversation with someone at work, it occurred to me that I need some sort of proof and/or explanation for this claim. OK, fair enough.

As an example of an apparently unsubstantiated claim that a school is burned every day in Sweden, let’s start here. This is a typical example (unfortunately, the blog owner doesn’t organize his pages such that each individual post has its own URL, see #1 below fold for original text)

Euphemism for Terror: The police suspect arson

Yesterday’s school burning in Sweden. On average one and a half per day. Most don’t end up as bad as this, but the terror has its effect. There is not a teacher nor student in the country that doesn’t know that his school can be gone the next day. We call it terror regardless of who it is that does it. In the newspaper, the phrasing is usually something like, “the police suspect that arson["]. We suspect it as well. Over 500 schools don’t spontaneously ignite.

The fact of the matter is that these “apparently unsubstantiated claim[s]” usually were substantiated and I just ignored that. This very example included a link in the last sentence to here, a Swedish local newspaper, Folket, from Eskilstuna. Interestingly, however, the post above is from 2010 and linked to the newspaper article from 2007 which included the following stats (#2 below):

Facts about School Burnings in Sweden
2004: 342 cases, of which 164 were classified as arson
2005: 445 cases, of which 209 were classified as arson
2006: 505 cases, of which 250 were classified as arson
2007: not available, but most likely more than 505
Source: Swedish Fire Protection Association

From item #3 below, apparently from the Danish newspaper’s website, Berlingske Tidende (the link given here doesn’t work), the Swedish Fire Protection Association is the official instance that registers fires in Sweden. Moreover, it indicates that cases of arson have risen from 95 in 1996 to 257 in 2006. The latter number is not the same, although close, to the number above – apparently, I’m not the only one with throwing around numbers willy-nilly. This contrast is also seen on this page; although now the reference is to the same organization having the same slightly different numbers.

So what about anything a bit more recent. From Snaphanen again, comes
a link to Sweden’s Radio, that states, as of June, 2014 (#4):

There is at least one fire per day in [Swedish] schools according to the latest fire investigation. It often starts in a waste paper basket, a locker, or something similar, that can sometimes turn the school building to ruins.

This quote is cut from the description of a radio program discussing the book, “Fuck Skolan” [yes, Fuck School], intended to explain (aka excuse) the perpetrators as being tired of school.

How bad is it? According to this article from 2010:

Last year the cost for fires in Sweden’s schools ended at about SEK one billion. 457 schools burned in 2009. About half of the fires were caused by arson. However, compared with 2008 fires in schools has decreased, that year 512 schools burned, also then half of them caused by arson.

Argh, still more numbers that don’t quite agree. Nonetheless, a billion Swedish kroner seems costly. Anything else? This website, looking to be somewhat official (with both Swedish and bad English links), has this:

Every day, there is a fire in one to two Swedish schools. These school fires cost several hundred million each year,

That seems bad.

Finally, The Swedish Fire Research organization, produced this report about schools fires in Sweden. I downloaded it (see the “klicka här! link) and may perhaps add some contents later.

In conclusion, it seems that the notion of school fires in Sweden is both somewhat exaggerated and somewhat downplayed. Swedes like most northern Europeans are good about reporting and keeping statistics – Most school fires are started indoors during the day. They are normally set in rubbish bins or staircases. These fires rarely spread, as they burn out or are extinguished by someone in the school from above. That said, however, Skr 500M (~$60M) is nothing to sneeze at for a country of 10M people; and clearly, from the description of that Swedish Radio program, I would assert that the seriousness of Swedish school arson is now bad enough when it needs to be excused or explained away.

… and oh, BTW, intentional car fires are up too. But not so much intentionally set mosque fires.

  1. Terror-eufemisme: “Polisen misstänker att branden är anlagt”
    Gårsdagens svenske skolebrand. Der er 1.5 om dagen. De fleste går ikke så slemt som denne, men terroren må have sin virkning. Der er ikke en lærer eller elev i landet der ikke ved, at hans skole kan være væk den næste dag. Vi kalder det terror uanset hvem der gør det. I avisen hedder det som regel “polisen misstänker att branden är anlagt. Det mistænker vi også. Over 500 skoler står ikke og bryder spontant i brand.
  2. FAKTA/Skolbränder i Sverige:
    2004: 342 bränder, varav 164 klassade som anlagda.
    2005: 445 bränder, varav 209 klassade som anlagda.
    2006: 505 bränder, varav 250 klassade som anlagda.
    2007: ej sammanställt, men troligtvis fler än 505.
    Källa: Svenska Brandskyddsföreningen
  3. Ifølge Svenska Brandskyddsföreningen, der registrerer brande i Sverige, sker der en støt stigning i antallet af påsatte skolebrande: fra 95 skoler i 1996 til 257 skoler i 2006. Det er i gennemsnit en påsat skolebrand hver dag. Det er en stigning på 170 procent i forhold til for ti år siden.[..]
  4. Det brinner i minst en skola om dagen enligt senaste brandforskningen. Ofta startar elden i papperskorgar eller elevskåp och släcks snabbt, men ibland förvandlas skolbyggnader till svartbrända ruiner.
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